R.L. Stine has been recognised as one of the bestselling children’s authors of all time with his Goosebumps books selling more than 400 million copies in 32 languages since it first went into print in 1992. This movie adaptation features dozens of Stine’s creations, with Jack Black as the famed writer.
Initially though, the filmmakers – including director Rob Letterman and producers Deborah Forte and Neal H. Moritz – faced a dilemma. With nearly 200 different Goosebumps paperbacks to choose from, which should they adapt?
In the picture, we are introduced to a teenager Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his mother Gale (Amy Ryan) who have moved from New York to a small town. You see Gale is about to take up a job as vice principal of the local school and Zach isn’t too keen on the idea. That is until he sets eyes upon the beautiful girl living next door, Hannah (Odeya Rush). Only her father, R. L. Stine (Jack Black), isn’t at all nice. In fact, he borders on downright rude and warns Zach to stay clear of him and his daughter. Zach can’t figure out why until one day he and his newfound doofus mate at school, Champ (Ryan Lee), break into their home after Zach has witnessed a series of strange events there. What they unearth they couldn’t have possibly imagined.
A series of R. L. Stine kids’ books is held under lock and key, but when one of these is opened all hell breaks lose. Suddenly they, along with Stine and his daughter, are being pursued by the Abominable Snowman, Slappy the vindictive dummy, a series of badass gnomes, a gargantuan insect and many more Stine creations. So they have well and truly let the cat out of the bag and now no one in town is safe.
I loved the set up. In fact, it was easy to warm to and quite charming. The two lead teenagers are well cast and Jack Black relishes the role of playing stroppy.
Goosebumps has a strong resemblance to Jumanji, the 1995 adventure fantasy that starred Robin Williams. Almost inevitably though, Goosebumps, became sillier as one after another creature started to run amok. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the film was better than I had anticipated it might be, only it became a case of how to keep a level of plausibility while developing the fantasy.
The screenplay by Darren Lemke combines humour with scares and is aimed primarily at a teenage audience. So, let the readers of Goosebumps books – of which there is no shortage – vote with their feet and their wallets. Overall, it gets my thumbs up. Rated PG, it scores a 6½ to 7 out of 10.
Director: Rob Letterman
Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell
Release Date: 14 January 2016
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television