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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, August 08, 2016

Movie Review - Goosebumps

Goosebumps (2015)
Starring Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan, and Jillian Bell
Directed by Rob Letterman
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Were I a nine to twelve year-old kid, Goosebumps would be a great film.  Hints of comedy, teen romance, and fun horror-adventure would've been exactly what I was looking for in a Jumanji-style flick.  However, I'm over two decades removed from that ten year-old me, so the faults in Goosebumps stand out more than they would to the targeted viewer.  While Goosebumps is a fun watch (even for someone who wasn't a Goosebumps reader as it came on the scene several years too late for me), it doesn't have the universality to appeal to all age demographics.

When his mother (Amy Ryan) moves to Delaware(!) for a new vice principal job, teenage Zach (Dylan Minnette) is disappointed to have to start anew.  However, he soon meets his next-door neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush) and she keys him in to the fun stuff in the small town of Madison.  Unfortunately, Hannah's father (Jack Black) is a bit overprotective of his daughter and forbids Zach to hang out with her.  One evening, upon hearing what he thought was a scream from inside Hannah's house, Zach and his new buddy Champ (Ryan Lee) break in to the house and discover that Hannah's father is the popular author R.L. Stine.  His Goosebumps manuscripts are all kept individually locked and when Zach opens one up, chaos ensues as all of Stine's literary creations begin to wreak havoc on the town.

Goosebumps works best when it focuses on the comedically scary creations of Stine's books.  Whether it be a smartly sarcastic dummy that's come to life or the Abominable Snowman or a cadre of sweet-looking though menacing garden gnomes, the special effects sequences in the film (which are tinged with moments of comedy) all work surprisingly well.  Disappointingly, when the flick doesn't focus on Stine's creatures, things are a bit of a mess.  We get subplots galore that are either unresolved or unnecessary.  Zach's crazy aunt looking for love (played by an admittedly humorous Jillian Bell); a gym teacher trying to make the move on Zach's mother; Champ trying to find a(ny) girlfriend; a quickly tossed together love story between Zach and Hannah; Zach's father's recent death and its effect on him -- it's just too many subplots for a film that doesn't need any of them, quite frankly.

There was potential here for Goosebumps to be an instant kids' movie classic, but the writers squandered that away by throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the mix.  As it stands, Goosebumps is only a moderately entertaining diversion that doesn't live up to what it could have been.

The RyMickey Rating:  C

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