Film Review: Goosebumps
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- Published on Thursday, 04 February 2016 11:00
- Last Updated on 01 February 2016
- Freda Cooper
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Half term’s starting early at the cinema. The Goosebumps books are established favourites with children and teenagers, but they’ve never made it to the big screen. Until this Friday, 5 February, when they arrive complete with a 12A certificate. Yet, as they’re all short novels, how do they adapt for the cinema? London Mums’ resident film critic, Freda Cooper, summons up all her courage to find out.
Teenager Zach (Dylan Minette) is less than happy when he and his mother move to small town Madison. They’re both looking for a fresh start after the death of his father about a year ago. But the town isn’t as boring as he expects and he soon strikes up a friendship with his neighbour, Hannah (Odeya Rush). She hardly ever seems to go out, has no friends and is home schooled by her less than friendly father (Jack Black). And that’s because he has a huge secret. He’s responsible for a massive collection of monsters and, when Zach accidentally lets them out of the proverbial bag, they go on the rampage all over town.
There’s over 60 of R L Stine’s original Goosebumps books, and that doesn’t include all the various spin-offs. A sizeable challenge for director Rob Letterman and scriptwriter Darren Lemke, but one that they’ve risen to willingly and with more than a touch of imagination. Instead of simply moving some of the books from the page to the screen, they’ve come up with a completely new story and populated it with the monsters from the books – The Werewolf Of Fever Swamp, The Abominable Snowman Of Pasadena, Night Of The Living Dummy (more of that one later) and many more. They’re all unleashed on the town simply by opening their respective books, which are usually kept firmly locked.
Added to that, they’ve made R L Stine the main character in the film. Unsurprisingly, he’s Hannah’s crabby dad and he’s the glue that holds the story together. Equally unsurprising is that, underneath that grumpy exterior, he’s a decent guy who just wants to protect his daughter. And keep his secret well and truly concealed, of course. Jack Black has huge fun in a role which plays to his strengths for whacky comedy and even whackier voices. Yes, he’s the voice of a couple of the monsters. Incidentally, if you look carefully, you’ll also see the real R L Stine in a small cameo role.
The dummy? He’s the driving force behind all the chaos, he’s name is Slappy – but don’t ever call him a dummy! He’s a traditional ventriloquist’s dummy, wanting to get his own back on Stine for locking him up in his book for years. And he’s smart enough to be the ringleader for all the other monsters, who follow him more than happily.
Most family films include jokes and storylines aimed specifically at the adults, but not so here. They get just one gag to themselves and that’s the apparent rivalry between Stine and author Steven King – or Steve King as he likes to call him. In fact, the Goosebumps books could easily be described as Steven King for teenagers. And the film has the occasional nod towards King among some of the monsters: zombies, of course, but also clown with bright red hair who’s more than a little reminiscent of Pennywise from It.
Mums’ rating: 7/10
It goes without saying that I’m not really the target audience for Goosebumps, but there were plenty of them at the screening I attended. They loudly pronounced it a good film. One especially liked the abominable snowman, another the giant praying mantis. And they all laughed in the right places, which was the most important thing of all. The film’s just good, solid, family fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
Goosebumps is released in cinemas on Friday, 5 February and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 4 February 2016.
Film critic and radio presenter Freda Cooper has been a movie fan all her life – the best qualification for the job! A contributor to a number of film websites, she also presents her weekly podcast, Talking Pictures, a finalist in the UK Podcasters Awards. Her movie blog, formerly The Coops Review, is now also called Talking Pictures, and was shortlisted at this year’s UK Blog Awards. And you can hear her film reviews every Friday morning on BBC Surrey and BBC Sussex!