Goosebumps - This Movie Slappy Rocks
Dir: Rob Letterman
Starring Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, R L Stine
Goosebumps “the movie” takes Goosebumps “the author” aka R. L. Stine and turns him into a quasi-meta character in his own fiction. And played by Jack Black.
It’s a novel idea and one that works very well, as Stine, hiding out in small town America, faces up to the notion of the monsters he has created on page coming to life when the original tightly locked manuscripts of his numerous books are unlocked. It owes a good deal to Jumanji, but still displays enough originality and fun to stand on its own.
Beetlejuice is another influence that comes to mind, not least right at the opening when the score appears to be aping Danny Elfman’s work for that film…until you realise it’s actually Elfman referencing himself. It’s that kind of movie. (And it doesn't stop there - director Letterman signposts his previous collaboration with Black on Gulliver's Travels. And the Stephen King gags come thick and fast.)
Black has a splendid time chomping his way through it all, and the young teen cast is extremely personable, especially Minnette, who plays his role as the misplaced teen with considerably more than one dimension.
It might well help if you know the books – The Abominable Showman of Pasadena is unleashed first, we kind of got lost after that amongst the giant preying mantis, the Converse-sporting werewolf, the killer garden gnomes and more. Best of all is super creepy ventriloquist dumm…sorry, doll, Slappy, voiced with great delight by Black (who also provides vox for The Invisible Boy.)
Then again, foreknowledge is not necessarily fore armed as the film commendably seeks not to create a franchise one book at a time, but throws the whole kit and caboodle in at once. (And watch for a cameo from the real Stine right towards the end as the new drama teacher.)
Goosebumps is a solid family film, that’s not afraid of a little edge here and there. And when was the last time you saw one of those?
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