Kids Korner: Goosebumps - Trying to find the balance between horror and humour - 3 stars

Don't take it personally. He doesn't really like anyone - Hannah Stine about her father

Popcorn, M&Ms and a large drink. Roll the film... I have never read an R.L. Stine book, but they are not hard to miss in the local bookstore. Will all of his characters fit on one screen?

Kid's Korner rating: 3 stars

            Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) and his mother have moved from New York City to Delaware and the teenager is less than enthusiastic about this transition in life. They are both still mourning the loss of his father and to add to the stress of the move, his mother has a new job as the vice-principal of the local high school. Along with the many challenges of moving into a new community, he finds out that their next door neighbour is an eccentric, reclusive and unfriendly author. On the positive side of things, the writer has an adventurous and beautiful daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush)
The explanation for the author's temperament is his desire to protect the world from his secrets. Zach comes to realise that the author is the writer of the bestselling Goosebumps books, R. L. Stine (Jack Black). This new neighbour is trying to protect the world from his books, because if the original manuscripts are opened, they come to life and they have the potential to wreak havoc on the world. Unaware of this potential disaster, Zach and his friend Champ (Ryan Lee) try to rescue Hannah from her father and accidentally open a book. With this one innocent act, they unleash the Goosebumps personalities on the small community. 
           For the fans of the children's horror/humour book series, this is an opportunity to reconnect with some of their favourite players of terror. It opens a new chapter in all of the classic R.L Stine books and it allows them to come together in this world for one night of terror. In the same vein as Gremlins and Goonies, this introduces the combination of horror, humour and children's fiction. Rob Letterman (Gulliver's Travels) directs Jack Black and company through an adventure that is reminiscent of these iconic horror/comedies. It does not match the level of classic family entertainment, but is good enough to make it worthwhile seeing it in cinemas. Black's over-the-top acting style is perfect for this subject material and it is ripe with possibilities for minor scares and big laughs. He is surrounded with strong, young talent which work well against his antics. 
            The key weaknesses of Goosebumps is in the area of balance. The first is the introduction of the multitude of antagonists in the film. All of the monsters ultimately overwhelm the storyline. Slappy, the ventriloquist dummy, is central to the story and the villainous ring leader, but with the introduction of each horrific role, the fear factor diminishes. The second balance issue is attempting to find Stine’s complementary knack for humour and horror. He has an ability to provide the right amount of humour to keep the horror from being too real. Unfortunately, Letterman’s direction does not find this symmetry. These weakness do not derail the film, but make it an average film as opposed to exceptional. It capitalises on Jack Black’s style and never attempts to take itself too seriously, but like movie popcorn, it is enjoyable but forgettable.

REEL DIALOGUE: What are the bigger questions we could ask our kids? 
          After reading the books or seeing the film based on Goosebumps, there are many opportunities to talk with children about fear or even humour. Yet, one of the key elements to discuss with these humour/horror stories is 'the twist.' R.L. Stine states that the twist provides the key component that defines the story and provides one of the best lines in the film.  It is not something that is new to writing, but some of histories best stories have unique twists that determine the fate of the central characters and make the story endearing. This can even be said of story of Jesus' life and death. Even though the twist is telegraphed throughout the first part of the Bible, his resurrection still is the defining 'twist' in history. It is the one event that continues to surprise and influence society today and is the twist that is worth considering. 

1. Are there such things as ghosts and spirits? (Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:11)
2. What do we do about things that scare us? (Isaiah 41:7; 2 Timothy 1:7 )

If Dad was to ask me what I thought of the film?  Realising that this younger generation may be more jaded and unaffected by the scarier bits, this is not a film for the younger set. For those who love the books, this will be a great day at the cinema and a fun time for those who are just being introduced to this humour-horror series. 

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Trailer for the film

Kid's Korner are reviews written by Russell Matthews' with his kid's perspective and based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews #goosebumps