Goosebumps has no right to be good. Based on the works of R.L. Stine, it should be a soulless cash grab. However, with the helpful hand of Rob Letterman in control and Jack Black playing the role of Mr Stine himself it has somehow come to be, as a Joe Dante-inspired family horror film, as likely to make you laugh as it is to make you jump.
They’ve done that by making the wise decision to avoid fleshing out just one of Stine’s books to feature length but instead throws them all into the melting pot. It features Dylan Minnette as Zach, the new kid in town who meets his next door neighbour Hannah (Odeya Rush) and is weirded out by her overprotective dad who doesn’t let her leave the house. This leads to him and his geeky new friend Champion (Ryan Lee), not a nickname, breaking into Stine’s house and opening his old Goosebumps manuscripts. Unfortunately, those old books contain the monsters themselves, and chaos is unleashed.
Fronting up this chaos is Slappy the Dummy, voiced by Black, the creepy ring leader of this parade. As he unleashed more and more of Stine’s creations, it becomes a device that allows them to throw monsters at you, and whether it is the very obviously Gremlins inspired Garden Gnomes or a candy loving Abominable Snowman, they all bring something new to the table. They also bring a barrel load of fun and of all the films I’ve seen already this year, it’s hard to remember one I’ve laughed at as often as this. If you are looking for scares this is probably not the place to be unless you are under the age of 8, but for good old-fashioned family fun. This nails it.
A lot of that is down to Black, who as usual shows that when presented with the right material, he is a lot less annoying than you remember. The guy plays everything so far past eleven that he can’t even see the amp anymore but in a world where the Haunted Car is a thing, that works. Meanwhile, his relationship with his daughter Hannah brings some genuine heart to the film, and you may even find yourself brushing away a small tear come the final credits.
So yea, Goosebumps should have been bad and in other hands it would have been. Somehow though these guys have nailed it and put together an enjoyable film that is suitable for all members of the family.