Goosebumps movie review: stick with the books (LFF 2015)

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Goosebumps red light

More theme-park attraction than movie, and paradoxically distastefully self-congratulatory about the Goosebumps phenomenon and insulting toward its author.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Turns out Goosebumps the movie is more Goosebumps the theme-park attraction. This is not based on one of the 200-plus (I lost count somewhere) kiddie horror-comedy books R.L. Stine has written. It’s kinda based on all of them. Because if a movie about one book is good, a movie about 200 books must be more awesomer still. When teen Zach (Dylan Minnette: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) moves to a small town with his mom (Amy Ryan [Birdman], who is completely wasted here), he discovers that his creepy new neighbor, Mr. Shivers (Jack Black: Sex Tape), has a collection of magical Goosebumps manuscripts that, if you open one, unleashes the book’s monster into the real world. Naturally, all of the books get opened, unleashing all of the Goosebumps monsters into the town. And now it’s up to Zach; his uncharming “comic” sidekick, Champ (Ryan Lee: Super 8); and Mr. Shivers’s daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush: The Giver), to save the day. Director Rob Letterman (who previously teamed up with Black on the terrible Gulliver’s Travels) throws lots of iconic horror imagery — zombies, a living ventriloquist dummy, a werewolf, aliens, a blob, and so on and so on — up on the screen, but none of them are ever scary, not even on a kiddie level, and none of the movie’s attempts at humor — idiot cops; the fact that Champ is a PG-rated teenage horndog, ugh — are ever funny. Details vital to the plot fall apart with the barest nudge, and the meta is never clever; in fact, it combines a distasteful self-congratulatory attitude toward the Goosebumps phenomenon with the suggestion that 17-year-old Zach could, on the fly and with no preparation or particular talent, write fiction that is as effective as Stine’s, which is a terrific way to insult one of the most successful and beloved storytellers working today.

viewed during the 59th BFI London Film Festival

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Goosebumps for its representation of girls and women.

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Thu, Oct 22, 2015 1:30pm

“Inkheart” did it better, the main premise that is.

Thu, Oct 22, 2015 3:29pm

The trailer made it seem pretty clear that everything which goes wrong is the kid’s fault. I don’t suppose he gets any sort of comeback for that…

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RogerBW
Thu, Oct 22, 2015 10:41pm

Nope. He gets rewarded.

Fri, Oct 23, 2015 3:17am

More negativity from you. Talk about a thundercunt!

Jose Covarrubias
Jose Covarrubias
Mon, Oct 26, 2015 7:14pm

As a 90’s kid I was expecting something like the TV show, something clever and scary. It was just an action film for small children.