Musings of a Moving Image Enthusiast
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Until I encountered the trailer of this movie, I had no idea about the existence of R.L. Stine’s series of fantasy horror books. The books weren’t available in India and any literature that I got from my relatives’ foreign visits revolved mostly around DC and Marvel publications. So when I did read up about Mr. Stine’s series of horror fiction novellas, my curiosity as well as expectations were naturally piqued. Given the fact that the film stars Jack Black, who I know bites into every role with furious tenacity, I was preparing myself to watch a fine film primarily aimed at young adults but has a little something for everyone.
But all the movie did was disappoint. Instead of picking a tale that defined the essence of the Goosebumps series, the producers decided to create a tale to fit all the characters that had been written down by the author into one single story. How did the movie receive a nod of approval from an author like R.L. Stine will forever be a massive mystery for me.
The movie focuses on Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette), a clean cut teenager who has moved from New York City to the town of Madison, Delaware with his mother Gale (a criminally underused Amy Ryan). His dark cloud of moving from a bustling city to a small town has a silver lining in the form of Hannah (Odeya Rush), an attractive girl who lives next door. But Hannah has a father, Mr. Shriver (Jack Black) who seems to harbor a perpetual hate for everyone and orders Zach to stay away from his daughter and his home.
But somehow that’s a tall order for Zach and he breaks into Mr. Shriver’s house with his new and only friend Champ (Ryan Lee). While in the house, Zach and Champ stumble upon,original manuscripts of the Goosebumps series. However, they discover the hard way that opening a manuscript will free the monster the book is about. This leads to hell being unleashed on the small town, as the monsters descend upon Madison and with the aim of destroying the town and its inhabitants.
There isn’t much to say about the movie that’s as predictable as an episode of Full House. Though there are some high-energy chase scenes and some genuine creep factor, the movie loses focus on who is its target viewer. Also you get a feeling that the movie is depending way too much on CGI rather than actual storytelling. While Jack Black is the saving grace of the film, there’s only so much he can do with a script that fails early on.
This film looks like something a pre-2000 Tim Burton would have been able to exploit to its full potential (something he was attempting until plans fell through). Alas Rob Letterman makes the proceedings seem uninteresting. I somehow feel he should stick to his animated features rather than attempting live-action adventures.