Review: GOOSEBUMPS (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Review: GOOSEBUMPS (2015)

Rob Letterman's big-screen adaptation of GOOSEBUMPS is nothing more than a disposable family-friendly entertainment.

If you're one of those kids living in the '90s, you might remember the popular TV series of Goosebumps (1995-1998). So, it's a matter of time before we finally get a big screen treatment. But instead of something worth waiting for, GOOSEBUMPS turns out to be a letdown.


Zach (Dylan Minnette) isn't exactly thrilled when he has to move from New York City to the sleepy town of Madison with his widowed mother (Amy Ryan). As Zach is adjusting to his new surroundings, he befriends his cute next-door neighbour Hannah (Odeya Rush) and dorky high-school classmate Champ (Ryan Lee). But Hannah's overprotective father (Jack Black) isn't fond of Zach and warns him to stay away from his daughter. Zach subsequently learns that Hannah's father is actually R.L. Stine, the famous author of the bestselling Goosebumps series. He also discovers Stine keeps a dark secret that lies within his books. All the books are locked up to prevent the creatures pops out alive from the pages. That is until Zach and Champ accidentally unlocked one of the books...


Although Danny Elfman's score is no match to the TV series' memorable theme music, his typically offbeat sounds still fit the tone of the movie. The subtle mix of CGI and practical effects that used on Slappy the Dummy and a gang of Lawn Gnomes are impressive.

Jack Black may not possess the physical resemblance of the real R.L. Stine, but he manages to offset that flaw with a hilariously grumpy personality. If that's not enough, Black also delivers a perfectly sinister voice as Slappy the Dummy, the main villain of the movie. Odeya Rush brings a wonderful touch of perkiness to her likable character as Hannah, while Ryan Lee gets a few laughs playing the geeky role oddly named as Champ. Jillian Bell provides another worthy comic relief as Zach's Aunt Lorraine. Then there's Timothy Simons and Amanda Lund, who manage to make the best of their brief appearances as two dim-witted cops.


From the technical point-of-view, director Rob Letterman (MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, GULLIVER'S TRAVELS) knows a thing or two about staging a few effective set-pieces. But these are three scenes that worth mentioning here: the encounter of the Abominable Snowman on an ice rink; the attack of the Lawn Gnomes in the kitchen; and the supermarket-set chase scene involving Will Blake the Werewolf of Fever Swamp.


With the exception of Slappy the Dummy and the Lawn Gnomes, most of the visual effects are too cartoony and unconvincing. The 3D presentation doesn't do much justice in this movie, which is better off seen in a normal 2D version instead.

Despite featuring plenty of popular GOOSEBUMPS monsters ranging from The Abominable Snowman to The Blob Monster, Letterman doesn't exactly know what to do with them. Sure, some of these monsters have their own highlights (read "Most Memorable Moment(s)") but others are sadly neglected into a glut of throwaway appearances. In fact, this is kind of baffling. With a wealth of stories from R.L. Stine's popular series, GOOSEBUMPS actually has potential to stretch into a successful franchise. But this big-screen adaptation made a big mistake cramming too much popular monsters all at once. It's like as if the filmmakers wanted to make this movie as a one-off, even though there's a clear indication for a sequel towards the end. So this leaves me an all-important question: what's the point of concluding with an open ending since the first movie here has already exhausted almost all the monsters from the series?

Darren Lemke's screenplay is also hopelessly generic. After the obligatory build-up, the payoff which leads to a single night of cat-and-mouse chase between the main characters and the monsters are more like fillers to pass the 103-minute running time. Even though GOOSEBUMPS is primarily aimed for kids and family, it's still disappointing to see such popular series is reduced into a disposable entertainment that looks like a fun ride at first, but hardly leaves a lasting impression after the movie ends.

As the young lead of this movie, Dylan Minnette is all good looks but rarely engages as a worthy protagonist. Amy Ryan, who previously appeared in a number of acclaimed movies like GONE BABY GONE (2007) and BIRDMAN (2014), is largely wasted as Zach's widowed mother. A few months ago, Halston Sage was great in PAPER TOWNS. But her minor role as Champ's only female friend is another forgettable character in GOOSEBUMPS, who merely shows up as a pretty face.


Once upon a time, a horror comedy like GOOSEBUMPS would make a perfect fit for Tim Burton, Sam Raimi or Joe Dante to direct the movie instead. While Letterman's version has its moments, his direction simply isn't enough to elevate this mediocre effort.

* This review is written courtesy from Sony Pictures Malaysia 3D press screening *

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