Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette), distraught after moving from the big city of New York to a small town with his mother Gale (Amy Ryan), finds a silver lining when he meets his neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush). The teen is then surprised to learn that her mysterious, recluse, father is R.L. Stine (Jack Black), the famous best-selling author of the “Goosebumps” series. When Zach accidentally summons the monsters from Stine’s tales, it’s up to Stine, his daughter, Zach, and his friend Champ (Ryan Lee) to return the monsters to the books from which they came.
I will just start off by saying I saw the film in 3D and I found that it did not add much to the story and the experience and was just another excuse to charge more money. Based on subject matter alone, this will probably make a lot of money anyway. I’ve been a big fan of the Goosebumps series ever since I was a kid. I don’t think I’ve read all of the books but I enjoyed the ones I did so I was curious to see how they would make it into a film.
I thought the story started off as a little cliche and original based on the circumstances in which Zach and his mom moved to where they did but I’m glad the film did not dwell on it too much. I was also surprised by how funny the film was as I thought the filmmakers did a great job at using comedy to break up the film’s more serious and scary moments. They were able to succeed at this thanks to smart dialogue for the most part and jokes and one-liners which rarely missed.
The primary sources of the comedy were from Ryan Lee’s Champ who was serviceable despite bombing a few times and Jillian Bell as Zach’s aunt Lorraine who I found a little cringy at times. There were also a pair of inept cops (Timothy Simons and Amanda Lund) that I thought were underused. I thought the acting all around in this to be very good, especially Minnette and Black. Minette’s Zach, despite not being very deep as a character development-wise, kept my interest and led the film well enough.
Black’s Stine was great here as a character similar to other characters he has played. He had some great moments and funny exchanges with the other actors. His character progression was rather predictable but this is a kids film. What made it entertaining was the chemistry the four actors had as I found they played well off of each other. Some may not like the pace of the film but I didn’t mind.
I thought the special effects were good but not great as the film depicted a series of Stein’s monsters from the Abominable Snowman, to a giant Premantis, evil gnomes, etc using CGI (perhaps too much). The most prominent of these monsters is Slappy the dummy (voiced by Black). He is the main villain of the film but I thought he brought the film down with his bad dialogue. I much rather preferred the scenes with the four actors against the monsters. The other thing I didn’t like were a few twists in the story which I thought did not add anything.
Overall, this a great kids film that shouldn’t be too scary for kids and one that they and adults should enjoy.