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Movie Night – 'Goosebumps' brings Halloween to families (Nov. 4, 2015 issue)

Every year as the calendar makes its way toward the end of October a slew of movies are released in an attempt to capitalize on those of us who might feel a bit naughty as Halloween approaches. Most involve blood, guts, and gore. It’s not exactly the best time of the year for a family movie night. “Goosebumps” aims to buck that trend by providing a Halloween-themed movie that the whole family can enjoy.
Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) and his mom, Gale (Amy Ryan), move from New York to Madison, Delaware, ostensibly because it was the only assistant principal position Gale could find. In reality, both she and Zach needed a fresh start after the death of Zach’s father. Zach is not happy about the move. He didn’t want to leave New York.
Things begin to turn around pretty quickly for Zach when he meets Hannah (Odeya Rush). Hannah is the mysterious girl next door. Between a late-night excursion with Hannah and meeting the completely socially-awkward schoolmate Champ (Ryan Lee), Zach thinks Madison might grow on him.
On his first Friday night in Madison there’s a dance at the school, though Zach has no plans on attending. That’s why he’s at home with his aunt when he hears a blood-curdling scream from Hannah’s house. Zach had briefly met Hannah’s dad (Jack Black) on two previous occasions. Their only interaction was Hannah’s dad telling Zach in no uncertain terms to stay on his side of the fence and Zach feebly agreeing. But that won’t stop Zach from making sure Hannah is safe.
After a visit from the bumbling sheriff’s deputies produces nothing, Zach recruits Champ to help him break into Hannah’s house to make sure she’s okay. Zach and Champ get much more than they bargained for when they find locked manuscripts to a series of books for young adults called “Goosebumps” written by R.L. Stine. The books are locked because the monsters inside the books literally come to life when they are allowed to escape the pages of the book. Zach and Champ find this out the hard way when they accidentally unleash the abominable snowman. Zach, Champ, Hannah, and her dad, R.L. Stine, spend the rest of the night trying to save the town from the monsters in Stine’s imagination.
The best thing about “Goosebumps” is that it’s a Halloween movie for the whole family, though some younger kids may not like it. There are many monsters (the blob, space men, and a giant praying mantis, just to name a few) along with a lot of running and screaming. The variety of the monsters chasing Zach and company provides a multitude of ways that each monster can be bested. It makes the movie more interesting.
The bad thing about the movie (or good thing, depending on your perspective) is that it’s not scary. At all. In fact, it’s much funnier than it is scary. It’s entertaining and funny and holds your attention and is good for family, but in the end it’s a Halloween movie that’s not scary.
“Goosebumps” does get some points for originality. Rather than base the movie on one of 500,000,000 books sold in the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine, the writers made R.L. Stine and his books characters in the movie. Why limit yourself to one book or one monster when you can have them all? There’s also a subtle message from the film that books are powerful, they can change your world.
From an army of garden gnomes to a ventriloquist’s dummy to a werewolf, the entire family will be, if not scared by, at least entertained by “Goosebumps.”
Grade: B+
Rated PG for scary (not really) and intense creature action and images and for some rude humor.