The ads lay it out fairly directly: This movie is about the monsters of the eponymous children’s book series come to life. No spoiler because it’s in the commercials: R.L. Stine’s creations come to life out of the magical books in which they’re trapped. That’s what they tell you is coming and that’s what you get.
To be clear, I was not looking forward to seeing this movie. From my perspective, this was going to be a treat for the kids and a chance for me to decompress and possibly nap in a darkened theatre. The fact that I got a couple of good chuckles out of it was an unexpected bonus.
After reading some low critical marks, imagine my surprise to have had a good time out with the kids. I didn’t regret spending the price of admission….except for the 3D upcharge, but we’ll get to that.
The performers know their job is to sell what’s happening to the kids in the audience and let the parents play along. This is a giant game of let’s-pretend for the kids. Like the Goosebumps books themselves, this isn’t high entertainment; it’s a fun distraction.
Jack Black as Stine is as enjoyable to watch as he’s been in a while. You can tell he’s having fun here, and it’s infectious. When the script takes its winking nods at reality, and creates a supposed bitterness for his unrecognized talent in the shadow of Stephen King, he injects that zany Black zeal that always gets a giggle.
The kids at the forefront of the story, Dylan Minnette (Zach) and Odeya Rush (Hannah), play their parts straight enough to keep the target audience invested. They also let Ryan Lee (Champ), as the one-lining sidekick, shine through for the comic relief. He really plays well off everyone.
(As a side note, don’t bother trying to follow Champ’s Twitter handle given in the movie. Someone already squatted on it and it doesn’t look like Sony/Columbia had the sense to incorporate it into the marketing campaign. That’s a shame as it could have been fun.)
Comfortably In Its Skin
This movie exists as entertainment. It asks only for you to play along. My eldest daughter is a big fan of the books, so I used her as a barometer of how well they did at capturing the spirit of things. At one point, she leaned over to me and said that this was her second favorite movie of all time behind Tomorrowland. It was pretty adorable, and it made me like the movie all the more. She was their target demo, and they got it right.
Goosebumps is as long as it needs to be (103 minutes) and ends before the joke gets old. That said, I hope they resist the urge for a sequel. It’d be hard to replay this gag effectively.
All of that praise and defense given, understand that this was specifically as enjoyable as it was because I went with my kids. This is not a movie I’d recommend a young couple on a date to select; there are unquestionably better options for adults.
But if you want to have a light-hearted time at the movies with your young ones, this is a good choice. It’s like the old Scooby Doo cartoons; it’s enough entertainment to fill the time without annoying you.
3D Conversion and Shazam
The 3D conversion was acceptable, but like all 3D post-conversions it’s not a particularly exciting format. While there are a few moments that the kids really enjoyed, and even reached out to the screen in amazement at the illusion, the biggest gasps of delight were during the credits, which was an animation obviously layered to play well in the format.
So while it wasn’t as annoying as other 3D conversions have been, you can save the extra cash and skip it. Especially after I had to catch my breath after realizing the movie theatre we went to doesn’t have a price differential built in for youth tickets. Thanks, Regal Cinemas, you should work on that.
The music is done by Danny Elfman and sounds like it. That’s not a knock, it’s just a fact. And I was taken aback by the appearance of the Shazam app logo in the lower left corner of the screen, which seemed a tacit recognition that many people ignore the “put away your phones” notice and can get a link to the soundtrack right away.
And yes, some half-wit couldn’t go 103 minutes without pulling out their phone and texting. What a terrific way to tell your kids that even going to the movies is an imposition on your own sense of self-importance.
The Final Verdict
Goosebumps is serviceable entertainment for kids, without being an annoyance for adults. It’s better than what I expected, and it could have been a lot worse. If you’ve got pre-adolescent kids, or adolescent kids who still have a silly sense of humor, they’ll have a good time.