Cert: PG / 103 mins / Dir. Rob Letterman / Trailer
Why has this movie taken so long to come out in the UK? It debuted in October in the US, and it's now out on DVD while the UK still hasn't had the full opening yet. It's that sort of lacklustre marketing and staggered release which makes it appear that the studio is noncommittal about what they've created, which is a real shame because Goosebumps is quite marvellous in its own way. Damn, that sounds noncommittal. Right, let me try again...
This big-screen adaptation of what can only be described as a literary phenomenon sometimes feels a little overshadowed by the presence of Jack Black and saunters in on the heels of some rather unimpressive trailers. Black over-eggs the pudding of course, but that's why you hire Jack Black. In a comedy/adventure environment, he's value for money if nothing else.
The film takes a good twenty minutes of its run-time to get warmed up (or rather, to become more than the sum of its parts), and the early backstory/exposition can feel a little heavy-handed, even making allowances for the target demographic. But after the initial scene-setting, the script is far more comfortable in itself as Goosebumps becomes a family-friendly horror adventure, with slapstick and dry humour in equal measure.
The books which inspired the film may be a product of the 1990s, but the movie itself is an almost Spielbergian homage to adolescent adventure movies of the 80s, like a feel-good version of The Lost Boys. For obvious reasons, it's packed to the rafters with Goosebumps references and in-jokes, but there are also Easter-eggs and nods to all manner of horror flicks from the last fifty-or-so years, too (including an above-average number of jibes in Stephen King's direction).
On a graphical front (and the film is proudly flagged as a Sony Animation production, so nit-picking is fair game), it's got to be said that a few of the creatures look a little 'plasticky' and almost unfinished, although those moments are outnumbered by the ones which pass the bar set by most studio movies in the 21st century. While it's not the best or worst CGI you've seen recently, Sony's trumpeting certainly suggests it's their A-game. The 3D, on the other hand, skips between average and ineffectual. It's not that it's badly rendered, it just isn't used to the potential that a film like this carries.
But Goosebumps is very much a movie for the youngsters, and is very much proud of that without being patronising to its audience. It's perhaps a little throwaway, but any film which demonstrates the power of books and imagination to a new audience is a great thing, indeed (even if it does so in quite a self-serving and brand-aware sort of way). I'd have gotten even more out of the film if it had just slowed down and done fewer things more thoroughly, but then it wasn't really made for me.
Enormous fun for the right audience, if a PG-rated Jack Black comedy can win over a cynic like me, you might just enjoy it too…
Gremlins, Earth To Echo, and maybe even Paper Towns?
That's debatable, to be fair, although it's certainly going to look its best on a big screen.
I think it does.
I didn't hear one, although the film's about 70% shrieking, so it wouldn't surprise me if a Wilhelm slipped through in one of the crowd scenes.
Level 2: Goosebumps stars Odeya Rush, who appeared in 2012's The Odd Life Of Timothy Green alongside Joel 'Uncle Owen' Edgerton.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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