Friday, October 16, 2015

Goosebumps ★★

    As a child growing up in the 1990s, there was nothing more exciting or enjoyable than indulging in the latest installment of the "Goosebumps" seriesa collection of children's novels written by the ever reclusive R.L. Stine. These adolescent tales of terror were infused with childlike imagination, subtle humor, and, generally speaking, glorious characterizations, most of which came in the form of something covered with hair or dripping with ooze. I suppose it was just a matter of time before these unique narratives made their way onto the silver screen.

    Although the 2015 release, simply entitled "Goosebumps," does well to include the above-mentioned nuances of Stine's writing style, it merely comes off as formulaic, repetitive, and, quite frankly, it comes off as a poor example of metafiction. (The picture routinely hints at its artificiality and literariness, yet this does little in the way of providing the film with any sense of soul or depth.) I'm sure that audiences understand the fact that this is a work of fiction and calling attention to this quality, I guess in an effort to deter skepticism and to evoke what I would deem to be "cuteness," only limits the effectiveness of the material. We are even told that "Goosebumps" tales involve twists, turns, frights, and personal growth for the central protagonist; however, these attributes are not only relatively absent, but the deficiency of such things only alludes to the picture's inability to deliver on its promises.

    The storyline here centers on Zach (Dylan Minnette), an average teenage boy who suddenly finds himself in a circumstance that can only be designated as adolescent purgatory: that is, he becomes the new kid in town. This leads directly to Zach's befriending of Champ (Ryan Lee), the token geek and the only individual who is likely to make a friend of the local high school's "fresh meat." Everything seems somewhat run-of-the-mill in fictional Madison, Delaware, that is until Zach meets Hannah (Odeya Rush), the cute and rather rambunctious girl next door who likes to sneak out at night and defy her father's demands. In fact, it is the peculiar relationship between Hannah and her father that will ultimately send Zach and company on a perilous journey in which they must save the town from imminent danger. What is this impending threat? Well, considering the fact that the marketing team for "Goosebumps" clearly utilizes the conflict of the picture as a selling point, then I am sure that if you are reading this you are already aware of the complication.

Image result for Goosebumps film stills monsters

    At length, "Goosebumps" is a film that suffers mightily from a poor sense of direction and from what seems to be an even more inept writing exhibition. Director Rob Letterman ("Shark Tale,"Monsters vs. Aliens") provides nothing in the realm of spirit or verve, and this, unfortunately, leads to several unflattering transitions between fixed-framed and hand-held shots and to a tone that is comparable to that of any network television production. (The latter of which certainly not being a compliment.) As for the script, it relies heavily on stereotypical personas, chase sequences, and on a number of awkward moments infused with teenage hormonal attraction, all in an effort to evoke some hint of laughter from the audience. Is it successful? To some extent it is, yet adequate humor loses its zest once it becomes evident that the rest of the film cannot keep pace.

    What is destined to be forgotten here are the three performances provided by an extremely youthful cast. Minnette, Lee, and Rush each had one notable acting credit coming into this production, and although none of them were particularly dreadful, I would be surprised if this showcasing led to anything other than mediocre work. (I'm afraid that Rush's role here may inevitably lead to the typecasting trap as she is too young to engage in parts brimming with maturity and as her likeness to actress Mila Kunis may become problematic over time.) With all of that being said, however, it may just be an incompetent release date that ultimately does "Goosebumps" in; for, the film only has two weeks to make its mark before Halloween comes and goes. Luckily, for most audiences, Halloween will pass by quickly enough, and the memory of "Goosebumps" will fade into obscurity where it belongs.                           

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