This film confirms that 10-year olds exist for a reason. Take one and pretend you are a kid again.
While I admire my two grandchildren and their success at school as they enter their teenage years, there are times that I wish I could simply make them 8 and 5 again. That was a time when I saw nearly every animated film as well as adventures aimed at children and it’s just not the same when forced to go alone.
However, sometimes you just have to swallow the poison and make the best of it, and that’s what I did with Director Rob Letterman’s Goosebumps. I’m glad I did, because the film reminded me of Gremlins (1984), which remains one of the great fantasy/horror films every made.
Yes, the plot is pretty simple, but don’t let that deter you. A teenage boy and his mother (the always effective Amy Ryan) move to a small Delaware community where she has taken a job as a school administrator. Her son Zach (Dylan Minnette) is immediately attracted to a cute girl living next door, but there is something strangely foreboding about her home. He repeatedly sees her father, played by Jack Black, confront him with the admonition to stay away from their house.
Trouble ensues when Zach hears the young girl screaming, and he takes a friend into the house to investigate. Among other things, he finds a collection of books that are locked shut, and the boys make a gigantic mistake when they open one of them. Opening that book was just like feeding a docile gremlin after midnight, and the entire town soon faces destruction.
More to the point, Jack Black plays R.L. Stine, the real-life author of the very popular “Goosebumps” books. The books contain stories of various monsters that haunt civilization, and all of those rogues are unleashed under the guidance of a diabolical ventriloquist dummy known as Slappy.
I know that it sounds both foolish and idiotic, but it becomes rather fun to watch humans confront an attack from an integrated army consisting of a werewolf, aliens capable of freezing humans on the spot, a cute puppy that morphs into a vampire and a particularly nasty giant praying mantis. Jack Black grows increasingly effective in his role as Stine, so just remember to keep those books locked if you have them at home.