I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
I’ve got to be honest, I was going to watch Spotlight, but I was too hungry and sad to watch a film tangentially related to that film’s subject matter, so I decided to eat a pizza and then watch a later showing of Goosebumps.
Goosebumps is sort of based on the popular series of children’s books by R.L Stine. By “sort of”, I mean the film is based in a reality in which the series of books is still a series of books, but R.L Stine is Jack Black and his creations within the books come to life and cause bedlam.
I bet that sounds exciting! Well, one slight hitch. Our protagonist is not Stine, it is some boring high school boy called Zack or Zac or Zach (I’m not looking it up).
Why? Why do they keep doing this? Why can’t we have a movie aimed for kids that doesn’t have an underwhelming young actor in his “breakout role” where he is simply meant to be relatable. Yeah I get that it’s important for protagonists to be relatable, but sometimes you just have to let the kids look at a situation where Goosebumps characters come to life and ask no questions, but fork over cash.
It’s even stranger when that’s actually kind of what we’re expected to accept. There’s no back story which explains how these beings came to life. We are literally just told that R.L Stine’s typewriter is magic and we should deal with it. That’s economic, no nonsense writing right there. So why have the kid with what’s apparently the most marketable name in the history of media?
To be fair to the guy, he’s not awful. I’ve certainly seen movies with worse leads and lead performances. And the fact that they have someone in their later teens, means he doesn’t have any bad kid-actor syndrome. Sure, he’s bland as chalk, but at least he’s not offensively bland.
What I was worried about was how they were going to deal with the teen stuff our lead does. Luckily there are no skateboards, school bullies or any other irrelevant teeny things to distract from the plot. There is a spectacularly badly written love story between Stine’s daughter and Zachory, but if you cover your eyes and ears for a few minutes, you won’t want to end it all.
We are also joined by Nerd. The guy has a name, but I’m just going to call him what I remember him to be. A Nerd who does nerdy, dweeby things and is a big fan of the Goosebumps books, so we have someone who can suck up to how great this movie’s source material is (we’ll come back to that issue later). Like I said, they don’t do the bully angle and since he’s in late high school, there’s not really any ostracizing of the guy other than the fact that he just isn’t cool. I’ll give the writer credit, that is actually a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be a nerd in late high school.
Before I go further in trashing this thing (if you can call it that, I believe I’m actually being relatively fair), let’s talk about the things I thought were OK.
First of all, Jack Black. I think he was good here. Not great, but certainly not bad. He has a strange OTT delivery of a mad scientist and a demeanour that is comically threatening at times. While the writing may not be that good, the guy is definitely trying to make this performance of a real guy not entirely kiss the guy’s feet.
Secondly the monsters. Not really because of the carnage they do or their designs, which are purposely basic and recognisable from previous stories of similar ilk, but because of the way they enter and exit reality. I just thought their CGI transformation involving ink from the pages of books was pretty cool.
That’s pretty much all I liked about this movie. The rest is pretty forgettable, sometimes confusing and sometimes annoying, but to go into detail about the stuff that ticks most of those boxes would go into spoiler territory.
What really bugs me about this whole endeavour is that, while I was never a fan of Goosebumps as a kid, I know that many people my age were and they would be interested in an adaptation of the BOOKS that they loved. Like I said, this movie had a good idea in having the books exist with the monsters coming to life from them, but I think what we need is a T.V Show.
In fact, we don’t need a T.V Show. What we need is nothing. We have a bunch of bestselling children’s novels already. Why don’t I just read those?
Recommended Scenario: Like I said, read the books, or watch Doctor Who like I did when everyone else was reading them.