Getting a remake/reboot right can be an extremely tricky task. Sometimes, in the case of the Jump Street franchise for example, they can prove a smart take on an old property, but in most cases, like Dad’s Army, also showing at UK cinemas now, they struggle to justify their existence. So it comes with a great surprise that Goosebumps, the cinematic reboot of the popular R.L Stein stories from the 1990s, turns out to fall into the former category.
Eyebrows were raised when the movie was announced, surely we didn’t need these stories retelling? Then when Jack Black was confirmed to be in the lead role, most of us let out a collective sigh. The film however, is a surprisingly fun filled nostalgia fest, one that embracing the anarchic nature of the novels and chucks in some good old fashioned 80’s inspired family fun to go with it.
In a smart twist Jack Black plays R.L Stein himself as a mysterious neighbour to Zac, who has just moved into Madison from out of town. Stein is something of a recluse, keeping himself and his daughter, Hannah, locked away from the outside world. One night Zac attempts to free Hannah, believing she is being held captive by her father and discovers a room full of Goosebumps novels. Along with his friend, Champ, he opens up some of the novels, inadvertenly releasing the monsters from within the books to the outside world, led by the villainous Slappy, the antagonist from the iconic Night of the Living Dummy series. Zac, Stein, Hannah and Champ must figure out a way to stop all the monsters before they manage to overtake Madison for good.
Whilst being somewhat formulaic Goosebumps manages to play up to its strengths and whilst the scares are never ones that will stay with you long after the movie has closed, they certainly bring back nostalgic memories of not being able to sleep at night after reading the novels and/or watching the 1995 TV series. The film borrows an awful lot from 1980’s films, a kitchen scene featuring the evil lawn gnomes is particularly reminiscent of Gremlins and is great fun to watch. It also features some great gags- a recurring one about the comparison between Stein and Stephen King manages to get laughs throughout and the film manages to utilise Jack Black’s manic style perfectly.
Black’s Stein also has a lot to say about the creative process and the power of our imagination, with a twist (albeit a rather predictable one) that comes later in the film exploring this. Black gets this down to a tee as well, reminding us that he is still a good actor when he wants to be. He also runs around a lot screaming, so I guess everybody is happy really.
Whilst it may be somewhat predictable and formulaic Goosebumps is a surprisingly effective reboot that is soaked in nostalgia and features some really fun performances.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐