Plot: Zach (Dylan Minnette) has just moved to a small town in Delaware from New York, but he isn’t thrilled with his new location, to say the least. He finds a respite from his disappointment however, when he meets his new neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush) and the two become fast friends. But soon Zach also meets Hannah’s father Mr. Shivers (Jack Black), who warns him to stay away from his daughter and not to snoop on the other side of the fence. When he thinks he hears Hannah is in trouble of some kind however, Zach investigates and inside her house, he stumbles upon a trove of Goosebumps stories, some that he never knew existed. These are no ordinary books however, as Mr. Shivers turns out to be R.L. Stine himself and these manuscripts hold more than scary tales, they hold the actual monsters. After a swarm of various creatures are unleashed, can Zach and his friends somehow save the town?

Entertainment Value: The Goosebumps series has been an unstoppable juggernaut in children’s literature, but one issue with turning the stories into movies has always been which ones to choose. The books are loaded with all kinds of monsters, ghouls, and spooky denizens, so this big screen adaptation avoided the selection process and just included the entire lot. Ok, so not every Goosebumps minion is found in this movie version, but there is a wide scope of characters to be found here. This approach is an interesting one, as it lets more of the Goosebumps world to be explored, but it does so at a shallow level. In other words, some of the coolest monsters are present, but only a few are given a real chance to shine, so if your favorites are relegated to background status, that can be a source of frustration. Even so, the abundance of colorful monsters does distract from a predictable, even dull main narrative, so making the creatures the focus was a wise choice. This movie doesn’t leave much of an impression, but fans of the books should get a little entertainment here.

This movie has a solid cast, but none of the performances are all that memorable and to be honest, the monsters tend to steal the show. This is due in part to the bland story involved, but also because the film seems to know the creatures are the most effective element, so the focus shifts there. Jack Black delivers his usual manic, over the top performance, but it is rather old hat by now and he does little to freshen up his act this time around. I’m sure his more devoted fans will get some laughs, but I was more annoyed than entertained. Odeya Rush is suitable eerie and mysterious, without going too far in that direction, so she is probably the most reliable and effective performer of the lot. Most of the acting is passable, I just wish there was more to the roles or turns than the basics. I mean, maybe the creatures would have upstaged them anyway, but no one puts up much of a fight. The cast also includes Dylan Minnette, Amy Ryan, Jillian Bell, Ken Marino, and of course, R.L. Stine himself.

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