Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Goosebumps (2015)

Film: Goosebumps (2015)
Stars: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell
Director: Rob Letterman
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

Nostalgia is a potent tool.  It's something that has, well, kept the motion picture industry in full bloom the past twenty years or so.  Movie subjects ranging from comic book heroes to reboots of popular franchises to sequels of movies long thought dormant (or sequels that are just incessant) have become a huge byproduct of the film industry.  In some cases this is good (remember Mad Max: Fury Road?), in some cases this is dreadful (anyone loving this year's DC films?), but by-and-large I've been able to be relatively picky about which ones become part of my day-to-day and which ones don't.  However, I recently chanced upon Goosebumps while visiting my parents, who wanted to see it and see what I could remember from reading the books religiously back when I was a child (there was always a quick hustle to the back of the B. Dalton at our local mall to see what RL Stine had in store for me that week).  The idea of going back into this universe sounded appealing, so I gave into nostalgia despite some initial trepidation (would these remotely age well in my memory?).

(Spoilers Ahead) Sadly, as you may be able to tell from my review score, nostalgia didn't really work for me here.  The dislike didn't stem from it not being occasionally fun to see some of the splashes of my youth on the screen (though the series was more inclined to later Goosebumps titles, I did catch Monster Blood and Night of the Living Dummy, as well as The Ghost Next Door early enough to get the twist ending).  It also wasn't due to the fact that Jack Black and the rest of the cast wasn't particularly good-I had no problems with the two-dimensional acting since it kind of suited the film, and Jack Black/Jillian Bell/Amy Ryan are all adept at comedy (not to mention Dylan Minnette reminds me of Lost, so that's always a good thing).

It's more along the lines of the fact that the film is too juvenile to really work for anyone other than the Nickelodeon set, and isn't a good enough film to translate.  I can appreciate kids movies that are actually for kids, but the nostalgic part of my brain, the part that wanted something genuinely creepy like what Stine brought to the pages of Goosebumps when I was ten or eleven instead became a comical farce.  There's no point in the entire movie that has a genuine fright for anyone above the age of six, and even the most odious of creatures from the original series (Slappy the Dummy, in particular), stand out in my mind as being far too comical and, well, slapstick for my taste.

Without the actual scare element and really with relatively limited callbacks to the original series, it was kind of a boring film for me on its sole merits.  Jack Black can sell his comedy here, but the love story, the resolution, and pretty much everything about the film is utterly predictable.  The central story of a teenager trying to fit in after his dad died felt pretty damn heavy for a movie of this nature, and there isn't enough time establishing side characters or conflict outside of that depressing catalyst to feel authentically high school, rather than middle school as its attitude seems to imply.  All-in-all, it's the sort of film that could get a huge number of seats in the theater based on name brand alone, but I left underwhelmed, and wishing that it had been Fear Street rather than Goosebumps that had been revived.

Those are my thoughts on this pretty basic picture.  What about yours?  Were there any Goosebumps fans that actually left impressed or happy with this iteration?  Or were you like me, either too blase or (perhaps) too old to get into such a film?  Share your thoughts below in the comments!

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