Reviews don’t make much of a difference to a movie like “Goosebumps,” so much that Sony hasn’t even bothered to schedule critics’ screenings in many cities. But I’ve been hearing rumbling for weeks that the loose adaptation of R.L. Stine’s spooks-for-kids series is … actually pretty good? Now come the reviews from critics who have seen it, and while some find it loud, noisy, pointless — exactly what you’d expect, in other words — quite a few think it’s charming, irreverent, and substantially fun. Rather than adapt any of Stine’s 100-plus books, the movie works as a tribute to the series, with Jack Black as the “real” R.L. Stine, whose copies of his own books turn out to be prisons for the monsters they describe. Obviously, they get loose, and hijinks ensue, but as formulaic as that sounds, formulas exist for a reason, and “Goosebumps” might be it. I guess I’ll have to wait until they screen it for me to know for sure.
Reviews of “Goosebumps”
Michael Rechtschaffen, Hollywood Reporter
Keeping the creepy/kooky mix entertainingly intact, “Goosebumps” translates R.L. Stine’s frighteningly successful young adult horror fiction series to the big screen with lively, teen “Ghostbusters”-type results. Just like those 400 million books sold worldwide, the movie version, energetically directed by Rob Letterman, has a tongue-in-cheek tone that undercuts the bone-rattling with a dose of funny bone-tickling.
Jordan Hoffman, Guardian
There’s a streak of old-fashioned B-movie spooky playfulness here, and when actual, motivated characters are on screen it’s delightful. Danny Elfman’s score keeps the proceedings moving along, and it’s fair to describe the film as Tim Burton-lite. The director, Rob Letterman, was also responsible for the abysmal Gulliver’s Travels, but Goosebumps ought to get him out of director’s jail.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx
“Goosebumps” is incredibly accessible to people like me who know nothing about “Goosebumps.” “Accessible” probably isn’t a fair word, because it doesn’t quite capture how entertaining this movie is. Look, I’m open to the fact that my expectations were something along the lines of, “a kids movie with a lot of inside references I won’t understand,” so, yes, I was pleasantly surprised, which always make a person like something more.
Inkoo Kang, The Wrap
Because most readers age out of the book series by the time they receive their elementary school diplomas, director Rob Letterman (“Gulliver’s Travels,” “Monsters vs. Aliens”) and writer Darren Lemke take inspiration not from the paperbacks themselves, but from how readers who have since outgrown them remember Stein and his library staples. The author’s reclusiveness becomes part of the storyline, and the variable quality of his scares is fondly mocked: Homicidal lawn gnomes and the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena anchor two set pieces. It’s a dopey premise, and the backstory for Stine’s magical powers of creation is superfluous at best, but it gives an excuse for the quartet to careen from one imaginatively plotted scrape to the next. The slightly irreverent take on the book series means that the grab-bag assortment of fiends is allowed to be wonderfully silly, none more than the knife-throwing garden gnomes whose every cock of an evil eyebrow is accompanied by a creepy crunch of ceramic grinding against ceramic.
Matt Goldberg, Collider
Even if you’ve never read a single “Goosebumps” book, you can tell how much love the film has for the source material, and how Letterman wanted it to leap off the page, both literally and figuratively. The result is a monster rampage that’s an absolute delight.
Geoff Berkshire, Variety
This first big-screen spin on R.L. Stine’s popular kid-lit series — which already inspired four seasons of TV — turns an endearing collection of silly, spooky stories into a busy, noisy, soulless eyesore. Instead of adapting any one or a select few of Stine’s 100-plus “Goosebumps” tales, the filmmakers opt for a greatest-hits mishmash that prioritizes the spectacle of a parade of monsters over any attempt at atmosphere or mystery. The result is like gorging on trick-or-treat candy — it may sound like a fun idea, but you’ll pay for it later.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Utilising computer animation and prosthetics, the effects team has conjured up some suitably terrifying monsters, but “Goosebumps” is an example of “imagination” overwhelming ingenuity, the sheer glut of FX on the screen quickly growing tedious. (And outside of the ventriloquist’s dummy, which is voiced by Black, none of the creatures has any personality.) While it’s always risky to predict what might be too frightening for kids, “Goosebumps” does seem to push the envelope for its target audience, staying away from blood or death but certainly liberally indulging in jump-scares and the threat of serious peril.
I’m honestly shocked to be reporting this but one of the wittiest, funniest movies of the fall season is… uh… GOOSEBUMPS
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) July 29, 2015
I never read GOOSEBUMPS and I’m a bitter old man, and I *still* enjoyed the movie, which seems destined to become a sleepover party staple.
— Matt Singer (@mattsinger) August 12, 2015