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18th January 2016

Jack Black's Monsters Come Out To Play

Sometimes, it would appear, I can get caught up in the ‘hype’. I’d heard, and I use that term lightly as I can’t remember where from, that this was supposed to be a good film. A family friendly adventure that had some substance about it. Were they right?

I don’t know of the Goosebumps books which is surprising given the author, R. L. Stine, has sold some 400 million worldwide in the last 25 years or so. They are classed as young-adult or children’s books and play on the fears and emotions of growing up. Stine is regularly dubbed the Stephen King of children’s literature, something that’s referenced in the film.

The film itself starts with Zach, Dylan Minnette (Prisoners, Let Me In) arriving in a new town. He meets his prickly new neighbour Stine, Jack Black (School of Rock, Kung Fu Panda) and Stine’s daughter Hannah, Odeya Rush (The Giver, We Are What We Are). He also meets a new friend at school called Champ, Ryan Lee (Super 8, White Rabbit).

After breaking into Stine’s house to rescue Hannah, so he thinks, Zach and Champ find the old Goosebumps manuscripts, each one locked, and they unlock one. The Abominable Snowman emerges, causes havoc in the town but is finally captured. On returning to the house they find that another Goosebumps character, Slappy (voiced by Jack Black), has also got out and he sets out releasing the rest of the Goosebumps monsters and the kids, with Stine, have to save the town and day.

Writer Darren Lemke has previous where children’s films are concerned having penned Shrek Forever After and Turbo to name two. Scott Alexander (Agent Cody Banks, Problem Child) and Larry Karaszewski (Agent Cody Banks, Problem Child) help out with the story with hit-and-miss director Rob Letterman (Shark Tale, Monsters Vs Aliens) taking directorial duties.

What you end up with is a nicely shot movie with good effects, but the story is a little on the weak side, characters are thin and it’s all a bit clichéd and obvious. The first couple of times you can forgive but then it begins to grate on you.

Minnette and Rush are fine in their roles whilst Jack Black is, well, Jack Black. He’s not in School of Rock form but, thankfully, he’s better than Gulliver’s Travels form. The stand out would be Ryan Lee though he hasn’t got much competition. He plays the geeky, scared, kid at school who’s trying to get the high school beauty to notice him. Lee was good in Super 8 and again shows he can act; I just hope someone gives him something decent to act in.

The film is rated PG (in the UK) but I’m not quite sure who the movie is aimed at. It’s probably quite scary for younger children whilst I can’t imagine teenagers or young adults would be overly impressed given other films they can watch. Maybe it’s one to give your small children nightmares?

I don’t know of the Goosebumps books which is surprising given the author, R. L. Stine, has sold some 400 million worldwide in the last 25 years or so.

5th February 2016

Rob Letterman

Darren Lemke, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski

Running Time:
1h 43min


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