Creeping up on us like something out of the books themselves, Goosebumps has had a modest, if not barely there promotional presence. Having to compete with a giant campaign like Deadpool, any film has potential to be lost in the crowd.
Modest hasn’t ever been lead Jack Black’s style though. Black stars as Goosebumps’ author R. L. Stine in a meta-style story inspired by the collection of children’s horror novellas. The books themselves feature and most importantly, the monsters make a big appearance. The heroes of the tale are teen actors Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush playing Zach, new kid in town, and Hannah, Stine’s daughter, respectively. A soft spot for Hannah and a concern over her relationship with her dad are the unlucky concoction that lead Zach and his new affiliated friend Champ (Ryan Lane) into a mishap that allows the audience to become acquainted with R. L. Stine’s creations. Ruler of the chaos and centre of the spotlight is villainous creature, Slappy, voiced fittingly by Black also.
Slappy is a scene-stealer; Black does some great work here that allows the character to embody a personality that isn’t solely a derivative from Black’s on-screen self. Black as Stine is perhaps a little more transparent however he’s still fun and his eyebrows and accent demand their own credits. The kids are less gimmicky and their ability to handle comedy is great. Jokes are delivered with perfect timing and sincerity which is what makes this film barrels and barrels of laughs. A delightful surprise for a film with a fraction of the budget used for summer blockbusters, which perhaps can be seen in the VFX that certainly aren’t comparable to Marvels’ giants in scale or frequency. They do however definitely hold their own when they come to play and are certainly more than acceptable for the tone of the film.
What the film did right was take a simple story and focus on its characters, the adventure, and remembering to excite and encourage the audience’s imaginations; much like a Goosebumps novel. It teases us with creatures but doesn’t exhaust them, keeps the pace moving and pulses pumping. Let’s not forget that Goosebumps was seriously creepy for the young audience and they don’t soften it for the young ones this time either. Young and old alike, everyone will have one creature that’ll elicit fear in their hearts and make the hairs stand on the back of their neck. It’s fair to say there’s a healthy selection to choose from here.
Throughout all the capers, Goosebumps is heart-warming and mood-boosting. Ryan Lee and Jillian Bell, as Zach’s aunt Lorraine, shine in their roles and deserve recognition in the comedy game. This won’t be the last we see of Odeya Rush either. An angelic, yet strong presence on screen reminiscent of a young Mila Kunis will catch people’s eyes for upcoming and hopefully more challenging roles, for sure.
I hope that Goosebumps doesn’t get lost in the Deadpool forest because it really does deserve a big, nostalgic audience looking for something genuine and amusing in these dreary days.