CineMarter
Goosebumps - At Least it's Better than Pixels

Matthew Parkinson | 17 Oct 2015 16:00
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Directed by Rob Letterman. Produced by Deborah Forte and Neal H. Moritz. Written by Darren Lemke. Release date: October 16, 2015.

On paper, Goosebumps is an even more child-friendly version of Pixels, except instead of videogame characters, we've got the monsters from the R.L. Stine's titular book series. If you vividly remember that series, and those memories are positive, then Goosebumps will play like a nostalgia-fest, where you constantly try to pick out various monsters, reminisce about the stories from which they appear, and ignore everything else. If you aren't fond of the books, then you're likely just going to feel apathetic about the whole experience.

Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) and his mother (Amy Ryan) begin the film moving to Madison, Delaware, after the mother accepted a job to be the assistant principal at the high school. They're neighbors to a reclusive man (Jack Black) and his daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush). Zach, being a no-good do-gooder, recruits his friend, Champ (Ryan Lee) and breaks into the house next door to "save" Hannah, whom he believes is being held prisoner. Once inside, he finds several Goosebumps manuscripts, which are locked for some reason. He opens one, which eventually causes a chain reaction, and then monsters appear, because the aforementioned recluse is a fictionalized version of R.L. Stine, and he is so magical that he made actual monsters.

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The story makes as much sense as any individual Goosebumps book, which is what it's trying to do. You either buy in, which means you don't need a good explanation - the film doesn't provide much of one - or you can't believe in any of it, and the film will fall apart for you. Chances are that most of the adults in the crowd, who have long since moved on from the Goosebumps books, will struggle to become invested. The kids, meanwhile, who perhaps are just making their way through the series, will be completely involved in what's going on. This is a movie for them, and for anyone who still loves the Goosebumps books.

There is something to be said about the loving way the film goes about representing its source material and presenting it to the audience. There isn't a bone of cynicism directed from Goosebumps to either of those potential targets. It's not aiming to be an ironic enjoyment of the book series; it genuinely enjoys them, and its target audience contains those who still enjoy them, too. The reason that Goosebumps is a better movie than Pixels is because you can tell it doesn't have contempt for the material it used as inspiration, or for those who enjoy those things.

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