When I was in school, The “Goosebumps” books by R. L Stine were a craze among the kids. Our school library was practically stacked with these titles. Kids borrowed these books more than anything else. I was however not that much into books. I preferred comics more and till date haven’t read a single Goosebumps book. Thus the material is completely novel and fresh for me. Novelty could have been a good thing for me as a viewer but for those who were familiar with the titles, had the chance to see their much loved characters come to life which in turns provided a different kick. I couldn’t feel that. What I came to understand from the trailer was that this was a film about the author R.L Stine, who has the manuscripts of his Goosebumps books locked in his home. A kid, who has just moved in to the neighborhood and has befriended his daughter, somehow unleashes the creatures from his books.
Within no time, the whole town is swarming with every monster from every R.L Stine book that you can think of. However the trailer doesn’t tell us about the maniacal ventriloquist dummy, Slappy who masterminds the whole plot to let loose the demons on town. The Kid, Zach(Dylan Minnette) releases only one demon while Slappy gets out by chance and then goes on to uncage every other monster as a revenge for the time he has spent on the book shelves trapped inside the pages of Stine’s manuscripts. It is now left to R.L Stine himself and the kids who team up with him to stop these monsters from wreaking havoc and also ensuring that they are sent back to where they came from.
Goosebumps is a fun watch. The film after the initial slow start quickly gets into top gear and remains relentless all throughout. The story jumps from one plot point to another with breakneck speed. The action is just non-stop. I was bowled over by the first appearance of the snowman and the subsequent sequence that follows culminating in the capture of the snowman and also the actual introduction of R. L Stine who is played by Jack Black. Jack Black is a man who has a contagious energy about himself and it’s all too evident here. The Film Practically takes a piggy back ride on his back. I am not saying that Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush who plays Stine’s daughter Hannah are bad actors. It’s just that they don’t have the intensity or likability to make you watch a film. So, suffice is to say that the film’s pull is hinged primarily on Jack Black.
The visual effects of the film are my first of many complaints from the film. The “wolfman” creature is very badly made. In this era of visual wizardry, the visual effects of this film are just not up to the mark. When you are making a film like this, to get the visual effects right should be your next top priority after the story and screenplay. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The visuals are constantly juggling between “ok”, “good” and “bad”. Off all the visual effects, I kinda liked the gigantic bug and the spider that attacks the crew as they are trying to make their way to safety. The bug was especially gorgeous. But the rest of the effects fall flat. The rendering of the ventriloquist dummy was well done. Jack Black mouths the dialogs for it and they work well.
Ryan Lee plays one of the kids called Champ who proves to be a comic relief on more than one occasion. Jillian Bell bells is awesome as Zach’s aunt who comes up every once in a while and tickles you funny bones with her antics. I just wish there was more of her in this film. Odeya Rush looks pretty and the twist involving her character lets the director elevate her character from the ordinary which, in atleast two scenes, works. Jack Black is a live wire and without him, this film would have been barely watchable. The film is also plagued by the obvious deficiencies that we associate with this genre. It is simply guilty pleasure. If you can accept it for what it is, then this film could be a decent watch. However, you should not expect too much from it and the VFX are plain bad. The genre and its deficiency are all too prevalent in this film and it falls prey to the cliché way too often.