Goosebumps, film review: ‘Full of fun’

Jack Black stars in Goosebumps. Picture: Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

Jack Black stars in Goosebumps. Picture: Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. - Credit: Hopper Stone, SMPSP

Michael Joyce says this engaging romp through an iconic children’s book series could just do with a bit more originality.

Director: Rob Letterman Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan and Jillian Bell Film Length: 103 mins

Hollywood producers and screenwriters seem to devote inordinate amounts of time to trying to work out how to make films out of things that have no business being made into films, other than being good for business. Any non-fiction book, newspaper article, video game, theme park ride or board game that has made heaps of money will have them spit-balling frantically trying to work out how to crack the narrative.

Slim children’s books can be a particular problem. Goosebumps is a series of horror stories written by E.L. Stine, the Stephen King of kids’ horror literature. There’s over a hundred of them, they sell prodigiously but they are all tiny – how to make a film of them? The solution here is to make Stine the protagonist and build a very agreeable homage to ‘80s creepy suburbia Spielberg movies round him. The new kid in town (Minette) becomes obsessed with his mysterious neighbour Mr Shivers (Black), who turns out to be Stine, and the library of his work has all the monsters trapped within the pages.

It sounds hackneyed but the film is full of fun, is genuinely funny and engagingly played by an agreeable cast. Even Jack Black is great, possibly because he isn’t trying to ingratiate himself with the audience. It all makes for a very traditional good time. Stine’s taste in the macabre doesn’t stray too far from Halloween favourites. There are invisible boys, giant insects, werewolves and talking ventriloquist dummies; all chaps you can imagine Abbott and Costello meeting, given time. A little bit more originality wouldn’t have gone amiss: the best bits are some Gremlin-esque scenes involving killer garden gnomes.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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