Goosebumps

 

Columbia Pictures

 

Rating: PG

 

Reason for the Rating: Scary and intense creature action and images, and for some rude humor.

 

Plot Summary: After moving to a small town and meeting his new (creepy) neighbor, Zach accidentally unleashes monsters on his new quiet neighborhood.

 

PopFam Recommends: Imaginative adventure that most school-age kids will enjoy, but might be too scary for younger ones.

 

Goosebumps is like a modern Jumanji.

 

Of course the plotline is different, and (sorry Jack Black) no one can measure up to Robin Williams, but the idea of creatures being unlocked from a form of entertainment and wreaking havoc on a small town...just like Jumanji.

 

Dylan Minnette plays Zach, a high-schooler who moves to Madison, Delaware from New York City with his recently widowed mother, Gail (Amy Ryan), the new high school assistant principal. Who doesn't want to be the new kid who's mom is the principal? Yeah, Zach feels the same way, and while he's good natured about moving to Delaware, it's really not his first choice. While trying to blend in to his new school, Zach meets Champ (Ryan Lee), who's real name is Champion. Yes, Champion. Apparently his father wanted a prize fighter and got a misfit instead.

 

But things start to look promising when Zach meets Hannah (Odeya Rush), the 16-year old daughter of his neighbor. The cute daughter of his neighbor. Promising stops when he meets her dad (Jack Black), who doesn't just give Zach the stink eye and move on, but rather gives him a good threat...an "if you don't leave my daughter alone, something bad will happen" kind of threat. Zach intends to leave well enough alone, or at least appear to do so. He'd rather sneak around at night with Hannah, exploring his new town and the surrounding forest. When he hears a fight between Hannah and her father though, Zach can't stay out of it. Manipulating his way into her house, he and Champ realize Hannah's father is R.L. Stine, the famous author of the best-selling Goosebumps series.

 

In the excitement of the break-in, Zach accidentally opens one of Stine's manuscripts and releases the Abominable Snowman, a character from one of Stine's books. While trying to capture the monster, another of Stine's books unlocks and releases Slappy (voiced by Jack Black), a megalomaniac ventriloquist dummy who wants to rid the world of Stine and thus have free reign. His plan is to open all of Stine's manuscript, releasing all of Stine's monsters for the world to enjoy. As in Jumanji, Zach and his new friends must work together to gather all the monsters back into the book and return Madison, Delaware to normal. One crazy night ensues.

 

Sounds interesting, but was the movie worth seeing? As a form of pure entertainment, yes. The acting was good, the special effects were perfect, and the plot moved along at a quick pace. My kids loved it, and most of the others in the theater seemed to as well. I was surprised to see younger kids in the theater, and one behind me was clearly scared at the monsters. As with all movies, take into consideration, not only the age of your kids, but their particular fears and world perceptions. What might be ok for one, might not be so for the other. This movie includes Abominable Snowmen, creepy clowns, frightening dummies, giant praying mantis, zombies, and a myriad of other fear-provoking monsters that are great for nightmares.

 

On the light side, Goosebumps includes themes of acceptance and change, which make for excellent talking points with your kids. But the plot is predictable and includes sticking points that may be hard for an adult to get past. These can also be good talking points with your kids..."If Hannah is a ghost and pales in the moonlight, why can she walk around during the day?" Or, "Why was Stine's typewriter on display at the high school? He wasn't from Madison, and no one even knew he WAS Stine." Anyway, you get the picture. The beauty of a kid's movie, is that kid's don't care about these things, and will still find the movie entertaining and fun.

 

Let’s Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:

 

• Zach thought R.L. Stine was mean and scary, but once he got to know him, he realized Stine was really a nice guy. What do others think when they first meet you? Does your appearance tell the true story of who you are?

 

• In the movie, Stine says that he was sick as a child, and bullied by other children. He never fit in, and turned to writing scary stories as a way of finding companionship. Was this a good choice or a bad choice in the end? How did making friends change his life?

 

• Stine based everything on the acceptance of other people. Why is it important to know how God sees you?

 

--JW

 

Note: All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

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