Magazine article Variety

Goosebumps

Magazine article Variety

Goosebumps

Article excerpt

Goosebumps

DIRECTOR: Rob Letterman

STARRING: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan

Young audiences are in for an early lesson in disappointing cinematic literary adaptations with "Goosebumps." This first big screen spin on R.L. Stine's popular kid-lit series - which already inspired four seasons of TV - turns an endearing collection of silly spooky stories into a busy, noisy, soulless eyesore. Perfectly timed to capitalize on Halloween-happy family auds, the lackluster horror-comedy will likely be unmasked by word-ofmouth, squandering breakout potential.

Instead of adapting any one or a select few of Stine's 100-plus "Goosebumps" tales, the filmmakers opt for a greatest hits mishmash that prioritizes a parade of monsters over any attempt at atmosphere or mystery. The result is like gorging on trick-or-treat candy - it may sound like a fun idea, but you'll pay for it later.

Clean-cut teen protagonist Zach (Dylan Minnette) moves with his widowed mom (a grossly underused Amy Ryan) from New York City to sleepy suburban Madison, Delaware. Hoping for a fresh start in the wake of his father's untimely death, Zach finds an immediate distraction in the enigmatic girl next door, Hannah (Odeya Rush), whose overprotective father (Jack Black) warns Zach in no uncertain terms to stay away.

That's especially hard to do when - in a "Rear Window" homage - Zach spies a father-daughter argument, and Hannah disappears. Soon enough, a meta twist reveals that Hannah's father is actually author R.L. Stine. He lives in seclusion to protect his original "Goosebumps" manuscripts, which have the power to manifest the monsters described within.

Zach and his geeky pal Champ (Ryan Lee) discover that supernatural development firsthand when they accidentally unleash the "Abominable Snowman of Pasadena" while snooping around Stine's house. During the ensuing chaos, another creature comes to life: maniacal ventriloquist's dummy Slappy (voiced by Black), who proceeds to spread Stine's manuscripts all over town and conjures everything from a wolfman to man-eating plants, trigger-happy aliens with freeze rays and a vampire poodle. …

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