Goosebumps are guaranteed for Goosebumps audiences with its scary (and fantastically displayed) computer-animated live-action monsters, eerie music (Danny Elfman), and Jack Black as a short-tempered ogre. Director Rob Letterman and the writers (Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, Darren Lemke) have cleverly brought into the movie version as many of the numerous monsters created by R. L. Stine as they reasonably could, and it is thrilling and ominous to see so many of them on the attack (e.g., Abominable Snowman, Slappy the Dummy, Giant Preying Mantis, Invisible Boy, Evil Swamp Werewolf, Zombies, Lawn Gnomes, Robots, Haunted Mask, and Bees, to name some). This is a new story incorporating Stine’s characters, rather than being based on a particular book. Stine said in an interview that it has always been important to him that his monsters be both scary and funny at the same time (http://www.comingsoon.net/movies/features/446963-interview-author-r-l-stine-talks-the-goosebumps-movie#/slide/1).
The initial part of the story centers on high schooler Zach Cooper (Minnette) moving into Madison, Delaware, with his mother (Ryan), the new vice principal of Madison High. He notices odd goings on next door, then is startled by Hannah (Rush) when he is at the trash bin. She is the daughter of R. L. Stine, the famous writer of the Goosebumps series, who has already leaned out of his second-story window and threatened Zach to stay away from her. But she is plucky and rebellious and takes Zach on a brilliant walk after dark. He is smitten with her.
Later, he hears Stine and Hannah arguing, and immediately worries about her safety. He uses a ruse to get Mr. Stine out of the house, and recruits his nerdy new friend from high school, Champ (Lee), to break into Hannah’s house and rescue her. This begins a series of frightening events that will take up the rest of the night when Champ, an avid reader of Stine’s books, and Zach manage to unleash monsters by opening a locked cabinet that contains all the books.
Jack Black is at his best in realizing the Stine character, from intimidating and ogre-like, to distressed, to lonely and desperate, to outlandishly comedic. He said he viewed the fictional Stine as “a respected writer with a dark side” and played him accordingly. Minette as Zach is a good counterpart to Stine in being young but sensible and creative in coming up with plans. Offering nervous hysteria and ultimately disastrous actions that invariably produce groans and chuckles, Lee’s Champ (dubbed “Chump”) gives us some comic relief from the tension.
The music by Danny Elfman and production design by Sean Haworth add dimension to the story by being alternately frightening and comedic, depending on what is going on in the script. The colors add richness and depth, all of which adds up to a visually beautiful film.
A nifty PG-rated comedy/horror movie that should appeal to most ages, except perhaps for sensitive younger children.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland