By: Kevin Jordan

No more than what I would ask for.

As the third movie in a single of week of screenings, I picked Goosebumps for one reason – I wanted to turn my brain off for an hour and a half and watch a movie for the pure pleasure of escaping into a fantasy world aimed at children.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m plenty entertained by movies that aren’t made for the under-thirteen crowd, but after screening Bridge of Spies and Crimson Peak earlier this week, I needed something that wouldn’t contain even a shred of seriousness.  Enter Jack Black to save the day (said nobody, ever).

I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a Goosebumps book, and if I have, I no longer remember.  But that doesn’t really matter, because I know what the books are (goofy-scary, not Saw-scary), so I knew going into the film that it was almost impossible for me to be disappointed.  Just give me some creatures and monsters, throw some kids in to be chased by those monsters, and give those kids a goal that equals how to stop the monsters.  In other words, dance monkeys, dance!

The plot of the movie is exactly as sophisticated as a kids movie should be – every creature and monster from every R.L. Stine book has escaped from those books and the kids must find a way to put them back before they destroy the town (Madison, Delaware) and kill everyone in it.  The kids in question are Zach (Dylan Minnette), Hannah (Odeya Rush), and Champ (Ryan Lee).  Zach is the new kid in town, just moved from New York City with his mom (Amy Ryan), who is the new vice principal at the local high school.  They move in next door to Hannah and her father, R.L. Stine (Jack Black).  Hannah is essentially locked in the house by R.L., but befriends Zach and shows him her secret Ferris wheel.  No, that is not a euphemism, it’s an actual, full-scale Ferris wheel.  Champ is a nerdy kid at the high school who also befriends Zach, eventually getting caught up in the adventure by the lure of girls.  The adventure gets started when Zach and Champ unwittingly unlock and open one of R.L.’s books and off we go.

There’s not much more to it than that and the kid in me loved every minute of it.  If you want any kind of logic for happens in this movie, go somewhere else.  There’s no good explanation for how the monsters came to life – R.L. just explains that, one day, they just did.  There’s even less explanation for the solution (which is hilariously obvious) – R.L. must write another book, but it has to be just right. Naturally, “just right” means “before everyone dies” and, as it turns out, doesn’t even have to be him.  Perhaps the most perplexing part is that the books can be burned.  You would think that would cause the monsters to disappear, but you’d be wrong.  The initial solution is that the monsters can be sucked back into the books (hi there, massive contradiction), so burning them means they get to stay out forever.  And the burning is being done by the lead monster, a ventriloquist dummy named Slappy (voiced by Jack Black).  This movie makes almost no sense, but who cares?  Not eight-year olds – the ones in the theater or the one happily bouncing off the walls in my brain.

In all seriousness, my only complaint about the movie is that the books weren’t indestructible.  It should have been harder for Slappy and crew to avoid going back to their prisons and it should have been harder for R.L. and the kids to defeat them than “just write another book.”  They had an entire high school full of kids and teachers that could have helped recover the books, why not use them as more than just fleeing prom gowns and adolescent suits?  But I digress.

The film is pleasing in the way that all kid books are pleasing – they are short, full of adventure and fun, and they get to the frickin’ point (do you hear that, J.K. Rowling?!).  Everything gets wrapped up in a neat little bow by the end (unless it doesn’t – apparently Stine is a fan of the twist as well), the two boys get to kiss the two girls (Champ wins over his crush, Taylor, played by Halston Sage), and the town goes on as if a bunch of monsters didn’t just almost kill everybody.  Like I said – it’s exactly what I hoped for and my brain got the much needed rest it so desperately wanted.

Rating:  Be serious.  Your kids will enjoy it and you will too, unless you’re dead inside.