After a lazy morning in front of Modern Family and a fresh haircut at my favourite granny salon, we headed to our local multiplex to take in something a little family friendly but still edgy.
The fact that it also offers adequate Jack Black action didn’t hurt. He’s definitely having something of a revival in my crush rotation right now (must be because School of Rock (2003) was on the TV the other night).
But besides the perving opportunity, this was actually quite a solid way to spend Saturday afternoon (and almost worth getting dressed and putting on make-up at the weekend).
I went into this movie adaptation of R.L Stine‘s nineties Goosebumps series as a GB Virgin. I think I was just a smidge too old for these books when they first came out so missed the hype, sadly. This is a shame really as I would have been all over them like a rash.
IMDB Synopsis: A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.
The set up here isn’t anything particularly new. Zach and his mother, Gale (The Office’s Amy Ryan) have moved to small town Madison from New York, following the death of Zach’s father. He’s dealing with this situation as best he can when he meets the girl next door, Hannah.
Unfortunately, Hannah’s overprotective father (Black – hello!) is none too pleased with this and quickly warns Zach not to come near either of them again. Luckily for Jack Black, teenagers always do what they’re told and never break rules. Zach also makes a new friend in the form of Young Tim Curry-alike, Champ.
One evening, Zach and Hannah take an unauthorised stroll to an abandoned theme park (as we all did as teenagers) and there’s a definite spark between them (duh). But Jack Black wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted Hannah to stay away from Zach and later there’s a domestic disturbance which leads Zach (and a reluctant Champ) to sneak into Hannah’s home to save her.
Expecting to find Hannah chained up in the basement by her crazed father, the boys are not at all prepared for the reality of the actual situation, though reality is a loose term in this movie.
After finding a carefully (but not that carefully) secured collection of the original Goosebumps books, our heroes speculate about what happened to the author, Mr Stine. They then royally fuck up the system and accidentally free one of Stine’s most ferocious characters from the pages of one of the books. That’s right, these literary monsters have the ability to leap straight off the page and into real time. Ooooooh!
What follows is a monster mash of epic proportions as R.L Stine’s finest creations escape and tear up the town.
TWIST! R.L Stine, the elusive author is actually… Hannah’s father, y’all! Together, this motley crew take on a seemingly endless stream of ghosts and ghouls, legendary monsters and their mastermind, the wonderfully creepy Slappy the Dummy (also voiced by my boy Black).
That’s sort kind of it in terms of the story line. Stine and pals must get to the high school, where Zach’s mother happens to be Vice Principal and is also chaperoning the school dance. Stine’s beloved typewriter on which he wrote every one of his books is also displayed there and the gang have determined that the only way to beat these pesky beasts is to write them back into a new story.
They must fight their way past werewolves, garden gnomes, a giant bug and the cast of the Thriller video in order to reach their goal – while keeping it together as a collective on the way. Will they make it godammit? To the Questions section!
Will our intrepid teens make it to the school in time to help Stine save the day? Will Hannah and Zach GET IT AWN? Will Champ ever win the heart of the hot girl? Why does Hannah keep lighting up like a roman candle in the night?
How fucking creepy are ventriloquist dummies? And, finally, why didn’t anything this cool happen to me when I was a teen?
I really did enjoy this film and not just because I love me a plucky werewolf. It offers a lot in the way of fun, the main characters are likeable (if nothing new) and Jack Black’s R.L Stine is superb. It’s always satisfying when Black plays it straight and I really appreciated the character’s obvious bitterness towards writing rival, “Steve” King.
There’s also a quite touching reason for Stine’s protectiveness towards his daughter, which we learn more about. I won’t lie, there may have been a tear shed on my behalf as the end drew near – I liked that Goosebumps packs an emotional punch as well as all the monster stuff.
I also love the writer within his own story gimmick. I’m not sure if it’s all true but Black makes ‘outsider’ Stine seem more sympathetic as he shares an insight into what made him write these characters in the first place. There’s even a little Stan Lee-style cameo before the credits roll, see if you can spot it.
All in all, fun fun fun. Not sure if my step son really loved it but fidgeting was kept to a minimum, which is always a good sign.
My Rating: 4/5.