GOOSEBUMPS 2 (2018)
Starring Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Chris Parnell, Ken Jeong, Jack Black, Bryce Cass, Peyton Wich, Kendrick Cross, Shari Headley, Courtney Cummings, Jessi Goei, Christian Finlayson, Matthew Jose Vasquez, Drew Scheid, Tyler Silva, R.L. Stine, and the voice of Mick Wingert.
Screenplay by Rob Lieber.
Directed by Ari Sandel.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated PG.
Novelist R.L. Stine has made a mint writing dozens of books that are based on horror, but still safe enough that children can read them. They may have monsters, vampires, ghosts and goblins, but they really aren’t going to scare anyone. Which is okay, in fact, they are one of the great selling points of the series. They are fun and funny more than they are scary, a perfect jumping off points for kids to learn about horror icons without actually becoming horrified. (It’s a similar trick to the old Scooby-Doo! TV series.)
The Goosebumps movies share this trait. They are fun and funny, steep themselves in horror situations – from haunted houses to marauding monsters – but they are not the type of thing that are going to give the little ones nightmares. You can be relatively sure there will be a happy ending, good will conquer evil and order will be returned to the world, for the most part. There will even be some nice life lessons in believing in yourself, the importance of education and some anti-bullying advice.
Goosebumps 2 was called Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween during its theatrical run, but now has streamlined the name for video release. It is pretty much a stand-alone story that has little to do with the first Goosebumps film, which turned out to be a relatively big hit a few years ago. That is, other than having the same basic storyline – a magical R.L. Stine book found by kids lets monsters loose on the real world – some of the same monsters, and a short supporting turn by Jack Black, returning as the fictionalized version of the Goosebumps author.
However, even if the new story is different, it’s all the same if you know what I mean.
A couple of bullied kids stumble on magical manuscript of one of Stine’s earliest, unfinished manuscript, which has somehow gotten into the local “haunted” house. The kids open the book, somehow letting loose Slappy, the evil magic ventriloquist dummy who caused so much havoc the last time around.
At first, they think that Slappy is cute, but eventually they realize he is planning to take over the town by setting a series of monsters on their hometown. So, the boys and one of their older sisters set about catching the monsters who run wild in the streets during Halloween, where they sort of fit in while doing their evil deeds.
Eventually they are able to track down Stine, who helps them catch all the bad spirits. (This is the movie Stine, but the real Stine also has a cameo as the school principal.)
It’s hardly a complicated plot, but it is kind of fun.
One thing that can’t be let to stand, though. There is a throwaway joke, even a relatively funny one, in which Black’s R.L. Stine sees a red balloon blowing down the street. He looks at it and says triumphantly, “I knew I came up with that first.” However, if the unpublished manuscript was supposed to be 30 years old, as the script states, then Stephen King’s novel It was already five-ten years old when Stine wrote it. So, yeah, sorry, still didn’t come up with it.
However, if that’s the biggest problem I have with Goosebumps 2, then it’s doing something right.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 20, 2019.