Film is bumpy ride

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPOSTER - STEPHANIE MERRY

WHAT’S creepier than a clown? A sin­is­ter ven­tril­o­quist’s dummy with an evil mind of its own, for one thing.

In the fam­ily-friendly Goosebumps, you get both – along with a gi­ant, an­gry pray­ing man­tis, an army of malev­o­lent gar­den gnomes, zom­bies, a lev­i­tat­ing poo­dle, a were­wolf and an abom­inable snow­man. That’s a recipe for non­stop fun.

Based on the se­ries of chil­dren’s hor­ror sto­ries by RL Stine, the big- screen adap­ta­tion of Goosebumps has been a long time com­ing. Since 1998, a se­ries of writ­ers and di­rec­tors have tried to make this movie, and screen­writer Dar­ren Lemke ( Jack the Gi­ant Slayer) and di­rec­tor Rob Let­ter­man ( Gul­liver’s Trav­els) fi­nally made it hap­pen.

Stine is a pro­lific writer, and his 300- plus pub­lished ti­tles – in­clud­ing It Came From Be­neath the Sink! and Say Cheese and Die! – tend to be short and for­mu­laic: a kid is con­fronted by some spooky strange­ness and has to use his or her in­ge­nu­ity to se­cure a hap­pi­lyever-af­ter (or at least a bizarre twist) end­ing.

In the movie, the new kid on the block is sar­cas­tic teen Zach (Dy­lan Min­nette), who has just moved to Madi­son, Delaware, from New York af­ter the death of his fa­ther.

The spooky strange­ness starts in the house next door, home to the lovely, funny Hannah (Odeya Rush) and her weirdo dad (Jack Black), who greets his new neigh­bour by say­ing, “You see that fence? Stay on your side of it.” Nice guy.

Dad hap­pens to be none other than Stine him­self – whose ter­ri­fy­ing cre­ations are so vivid that they’ve come to life, al­though they re­main im­pris­oned in­side locked manuscripts. Un­til now. When Zach and his new friend Champ (Ryan Lee), a dorky ado­les­cent, sneak into the writer’s house, they un­lock one of the books, and out pops the Abom­inable Snow­man, look­ing like an al­bino vil­lain from Planet of the Apes. The kids man­age to suck the yeti back into his lit­er­ary cage, but while they’re busy, other mon­sters get out and start a mutiny, free­ing all of the crea­tures.

Sud­denly the small town is in­un­dated by po­ten­tially deadly su­per­nat­u­ral beasts. This be­ing a Goosebumps adap­ta­tion, no one is in dan­ger of dy­ing.

The movie is lit­tle more than a pa­rade of chase scenes. The pray- ing man­tis hunts Stine and the kids un­til they find refuge in a su­per­mar­ket, where the were­wolf ter­rorises them un­til they es­cape to a ceme­tery, where the zom­bies ap­pear.

It’s oc­ca­sion­ally funny and some­times sus­pense­ful, but it isn’t par­tic­u­larly imag­i­na­tive. Then again, nei­ther are Stine’s novel­las.

Goosebumps is ca­pa­bly acted by its trio of teens, and Black, as al­ways, sup­plies some laughs with his ac­ro­batic eye­brows.

But the laughs give us only small breaks from the end­less ac­tion, which looks so ob­vi­ously com­puter-gen­er­ated.

The mu­sic, by Danny Elfman, is in­tru­sive. When Zach and his mother ( Amy Ryan) first move to the sub­urbs, and she re­marks on how de­light­fully silent their new home is, it seems like an odd time to have the score clut­ter­ing the still­ness she’s re­mark­ing on. But so it goes with a movie that puts a lot more thought into the chase than on the peo­ple run­ning. – Wash­ing­ton Post


BE­WARE: Champ (Ryan Lee), left, Zach (Dy­lan Min­nette) and Hannah (Odeya Rush) un­lock trou­ble in the old manuscripts of author RL Stine (Jack Black), right, in

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