Thursday, October 22, 2015

Movie Review #329: "Goosebumps" (2015)

Director: Rob Letterman
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
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Zach (Dylan Minnette) has just moved from New York City to Madison, Delaware with his mom who is looking for a change of scenery after Zach's father's death a year prior. While unpacking, Zach meets Hannah (Odeya Rush), who lives next door. Her father is very reclusive and keeps her shut in most of the time. One night after hearing an argument and a scream from Hannah next door, Zach and his new friend Champ (Ryan Lee) break into his neighbor's house to discover a book shelf full of "Goosebumps" original manuscripts and that their neighbor is actually author R.L. Stine (Jack Black). What they don't know is the books are magical, and when they open one, they accidentally release its monster into the world. When Slappy the Ventriloquist's book accidentally gets unlocked, he makes it his mission to burn all of Stine's books, leading all the monsters to be released, unleashing their terror on the small town. 

This film has been marketed pretty heavily for a while, and when we first saw the trailer for it, we weren't the slightest bit thrilled or impressed by it. Going into "Goosebumps," we had tepid expectations and figured it would be just another bummer of a kids movie. Fortunately for us, we were very pleasantly surprised by how much we liked this movie! Its trailer did not do it any justice at all because this is a really fun for people of all ages. It is the perfect family friendly film to get everyone in the right mood and spirit for the Halloween season. It combines just the right amount of frights with a whole lot of comedy and a smidgen of heart thrown in for good measure. Though the plot might be seen by some as a pretty generic action adventure for kids, its premise is different and allows for a whole array of monsters created by real life author R.L. Stine in his books.

The cast is actually very good here. Dylan Minnette plays Zach and puts on a solid performance as the main hero character. We have seen and liked him act in a few other places and expect great things from him in the future if he keeps it up. Odeya Rush plays Zach's love interest Hannah and is convincing in this part. The "heart" part of the movie we mentioned above has to do with her character and we really found her acting to be quite good. Much of the laughs come from Ryan Lee, who plays Champ. His clear purpose in the film is to be the comedic sidekick. Though he is a bit of a scaredy-cat, even when he's frightened, he keeps the jokes coming in some truly laugh out loud moments even for us adults. Of course, Jack Black plays R.L. Stine and does his typical fun, over-the-top Jack Black thing, this time in a sinister voice instead of his excitable, high pitched one. Black might not look like Stine in real life, but we believe he captures the spirit of Stine just fine enough to get by. He and Hannah live next door to Zach, but you'd never know it because they keep to themselves. When Zach and Hannah are caught talking, one of the first things Stine says to Zach is, "Get out of here or the last scream you hear will be your own!" SO CREEPY! Together, these characters must put a stop to Slappy the Ventriloquist's reign of book-burning terror. Once Slappy burns a book, the character is locked into our world forever with no real way to get sucked back into the book from where it came. Zach has the bright idea to write a new story that will lock all the monsters away for good, though this might have some unintended consequences for someone close to him later.

"Goosebumps" turned out to be a super fun monster-themed family adventure film that is an enjoyable ride from start to finish. Of course, this doesn't mean it is perfect as some of the CGI is a little hit or miss. While sometimes it can look a little cartoony, like the Werewolf monster, other times, it looks really cool, like when the monsters are getting sucked in and out of the vortexes of the books, as well as some of the bigger, scarier monsters like the preying mantis. It's not all CGI, though, as Slappy the Ventriloquist and many other later resurrected creatures use practical effects and makeup to achieve their desired scares. Despite the mishmash CGI, in the context of this film, it didn't really hurt our enjoyment of it that much as we were always entertained and laughing. It's nice to have a good time when you go to the movies, even if it's a film intended for kids. "Goosebumps" is very fast paced, and once the action gets started, it doesn't take many breaks, so if you are the type to take a leisurely stroll to the potty at some point during a movie's run time, it'd be best to do it before a book is opened, because once the beast gets unleashed, it doesn't stop for anything or anyone. This will most certainly be a movie we'll buy and watch on Halloween to get us into the spirit early in the day before we break out the adult R-rated horror movies.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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