There is something extra pleasant about enjoying a film that you thoroughly did not expect to enjoy. In the midst of all the nostalgia-fuelled reboots, remakes and reimagining’s we are bombarded with at the cinema, Goosebumps stands out. It isn’t patronising or insulting like most kids films. There were laughs, genuinely creepy moments and enough nods to the parents in the audience to keep them entertained too. Not much more can be asked for from a kids film. Directed by Rob Letterman (director of Shark Tale and the largely underrated Monsters vs Aliens) and starring competent adults as well as children who aren’t industry standard insufferable. Dylan Minnette (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and Prisoners) ranges from adequate to borderline likeable as the lead, Zach, who instantly falls for the girl next door, Hannah, played by Odeya Rush. Recently bereaved of his father, Zach and his mother Gale, played Amy Ryan (U.S. Office and Birdman), move to a new town in an attempt to get over his death. Ryan is just as likeable as Zach’s nerdy mother and vice-principal of his new school as she is as Holly Flax in The Office, stealing the show in all of her scenes. The supporting, comic relief roles come in the form of the crazy aunt and the loser friend; Jillian Bell (Workaholics and 22 Jump Street) and Ryan Lee (Super 8) respectively. Top billing goes to Jack Black as the writer of the Goosebumps books and cantankerous father of Hannah; R.L. Stine. Stepping just outside of his comfort zone, Black shows that he can indeed play someone his own age.
Although warned by Stine to stay away from his daughter, Zach and new friend Champ break into his house after hearing screams from inside. They accidentally release every creature from all of Stine’s Goosebumps series of books from their magic manuscripts and must then team up with Hannah and her father to save the town from the hundreds of monsters. The idea works well to showcase the plethora of creatures that were written under the Goosebumps banner with many an easter egg for keener eyes and fans of the series. Led by Slappy the ventriloquists dummy, the monsters ravage the town until Zach and co. can find a way to get them back into the books.
The theme is getting over the past, moving forwards and allowing yourself to be happy. Zach and Gale must learn how to be happy after the death of Zach’s father and it is revealed that Stine wrote the monsters as a coping mechanism to deal with childhood bullies, unknowing that they would come to life. Zach finds peace through Hannah who is also missing a parent and Stine learns to give the world another chance, eventually losing his cold, reclusive persona. A surprising amount of heart for a film that could easily have been a cynical cash grab, dusting off a once popular property.
In summary, Goosebumps plays out like a The Cabin in the Woods for kids, utilising a great mix of practical effects and costumes alongside CGI to create an army of monsters. It has laughs, heart and scares. Ultimately entertaining a sold out, half-term screening with both children and adults left feeling far from disappointed.