A Franken- Stine creation
released 5 February PG | 103 minutes
Director Rob Letterman
Cast Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan, Jillian Bell
Faced with the daunting task – one that has taken nearly 20 years to bring to fruition – of turning prodigious author RL Stine’s teen- horror Goosebumps books into a film, writer Darren Lemke and director Rob Letterman have plumped for… all of them.
Well, several, at least, cramming together creatures such as the Abominable Snowman, evil gnomes and Slappy the diabolical dummy into one overstuffed tale that also features Stine himself.
Embodied here by Jack Black in slightly restrained form ( so, maniacally mugging compared to your average human…), Stine is a paranoid recluse, fearful that his secret will be revealed to the world. See, his books contain actual beasties, and if they were to be unlocked, chaos would spill from the pages. Bet you can’t guess what happens next, after Stine underestimates the curiosity of new neighbour Zack ( Dylan Minnette) and the fast- formed connection between the young man and Stine’s daughter Hannah ( Odeya Rush).
Slow- cooking at first, it later boils over into a frenetic, effects- heavy showdown between the horrors and the humans, neither of which offer much in the way of depth, beyond driving the plot. But Letterman, who previously worked with Black on Gulliver’s Travels, and who goes CG- happy again with this one, still manages to drum up a little more honest heart and humour to go with the mild, child- friendly scares.
The smartest move made here was rounding up an assortment of talented, funny types for supporting roles, including Ryan Lee as Zack’s wannabe new best friend, Amy Ryan as Zack’s mother and Jillian Bell as his wacky aunt.
Goosebumps is predictably frantic and slightly underdeveloped in places, which is ironic given the time it’s spent being nurtured by more than one studio. Yet it’s diverting enough if you don’t mind a lot of goofy acting from both people and monsters. James White
The ’ 90s CBBC TV series of Goosebumps has just been reissued, in a 12- disc box set containing all 68 episodes.
Ricky Gervais conducted the zombie choir.