Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Goosebumps is inspired by author R.L. Stine's famous children's book series. Rather than adapting any one given story, the movie presents "Stine" as a character, whose spooky literary creations are all magically entrapped in the original manuscripts of the books he's written. Chaos reigns in the small town of Madison, Delaware when the books are opened and the monsters are released. It falls on Stine and a group of teenagers -- his daughter, the new-to-the-neighborhood protagonist, and the "wacky comic relief" -- to recapture them all.
I'm not sure the exact target age of the Goosebumps books, but I'd imagine you'd need to ask someone in that demographic what they thought of the movie. I have a hard time imagining that the movie hits that target. To me, it felt far too terrifying for a truly small kid, and already too silly and "kiddie" for an adventurous pre-teen looking to experience their first horror movie. Then again, it's certain that the truckload of random creatures littering the movie are references to various Goosebumps books; recognizing those connections would probably be fun for a kid who'd read them.
In any case, this is not one of those movies that offers even modest entertainment to a parent/aunt/uncle/babysitter watching this with a kid. If you like Jack Black, you'll be disappointed at how restrained he is here. (He gets most animated in the moments where his character is swatting away audience questions: "It doesn't work that way.") If you've ever seen a movie with the excellent Amy Ryan, you'll be disappointed that she's now been relegated to the thankless movie trope of the "Mom who doesn't understand." You won't be impressed by the lazy visual effects. You won't laugh at the lame jokes.
This is not Gremlins or Coraline, or even Monster House or ParaNorman. It's simply a dud, not even bad enough to be a watchable train wreck. I give Goosebumps a D-.