R.L. Stine, the prolific author of over 270 kids horror books/stories, video games, TV shows, and novels, wants you to know he’s still alive. So, here’s a movie all about him and how great a writer he is! He even shows up in a cameo at the end like Stan Lee does in all the Marvel movies. Not too narcissistic, huh?
With a script by Darren Lemke, who gave us the tepid Jack the Giant Slayer and Shrek Goes Fourth, and music by Danny Elfman, who recycles his own Bettlejuice score, Goosebumps is an hour and 34 minute long product placement for Stine, his books, and anything else he can sell us. BUT it does have the very funny Jack Black (who looks nothing like Stine whatsoever), so it’s got that going for it.
It seems that Madison, Delaware is where Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) and his mom Gale (Amy Ryan) have arrived from NYC and she’s the new vice principle at his new high school. Zach’s not happy about moving… however the girl next door IS rather cute. Hannah (Odeya Rush–looking like a young Mila Kunis) lives with her very creepy black horned-rimmed glasses father, Mr. Shivers (Black). We also meet Gale’s ditzy sister Lorraine (Jillian Bell) who’s into bedazzling things and the nerdy school geek, Champ (Ryan Lee), who takes a liking to Zach.
Anyway, Zach thinks Hannah’s dad is hurting her and gets him out of the house long enough to investigate with Champ. But they stumble upon the locked original manuscript books of R.L. Stine and a special key to unlock them. Why are they locked? Before you can say “plot twist”, Zach unwittingly opens a book and BOOM! The huge Abominable Snowman of Pasadena pops out of the book and starts to terrorize the town. As Hannah, Champ, and Zach try to get the beast back in the book (’cause that’s how you capture them), another secret is exposed.
Mr. Shivers reveals that he is R.L. Stine and all those books at home contain his REAL creatures from his imagination. More problems arise when Stine’s twisted alter-ego, the evil ventriloquist dummy Slappy (voiced by Black) is set free and steals all the books, letting loose ALL the dangerous creatures from their books to destroy the town. Worse yet, he’s burned all the books, so the monsters cant go back! Solution? Stine must write another book to make all these bad things go away, but he can only do it on his original Smith-Corona typewriter which is on display at the school!
So, the race is on! Hannah, Stine, Zach, and Champ must now get to the school and have Stine write that happy ending on his old typewriter, while being pursued by a myriad of unbelievable monsters. Attacking lawn gnomes! A werewolf wearing sneakers! A Godzilla-sized praying mantis! Ghouls! And through all the running and escaping, Zach makes a startling discovery about Hannah that. . . well, that’s a surprise.
Although the real R. L. Stine was consulted on this film, his writing prowess was not utilized, which was a shame. I’ve never read any of the Goosebumps books or seen any of the TV shows, but I have to believe they’re way better than this, considering the $400 million he’s made in sales and more books than Stephen King, facts that are mentioned in the movie. Yeah, Stine wants you to know that.
Directed by Rob Letterman, whose only other live action movie was 2010’s terrible Gulliver’s Travels (with Jack Black), the man should stick to animated films like his Shark Tale and Monsters vs Aliens. The directing was unbalanced and sloppy at times with too many close-ups for some odd reason. But even that can be forgiven, if it weren’t for the hokey screenplay with enough plot holes to fill up a library. The dialogue did have some witty lines at times, I’ll give it that, but the story was so convoluted and filled with so many ridiculous, implausible moments that is was hard to enjoy.
But then there’s Jack Black. His appearance on film, as a weirder version of Stine, was the one shining light in this movie. Not only did he look like he was having fun with the role, but he was acting like a different Black than he normally does. Kudos for him!
“The written word, it’s a powerful thing. Be careful with it”, says Mortimer Folchart (Brendan Fraser), a world-renowned book doctor. It’s also dangerous thing to say out-loud IF you’re a ‘Silver Tongue’, like he is. Silver Tongues, y’see, are a very rare breed of people who can read aloud from any book and the characters or situations come alive! That’s where Mortimer’s problems start when he reads to his little girl from the fantasy book, Inkheart, and several characters pop out into our world, taking Mortimer’s wife Resa (Sierra Guillroy) in exchange into theirs. Why the exchange part? Beats me, that’s just the rules, I guess. Why can’t Silver Tongues just say anything out-loud without a book and have THAT come true? Don’t know. Never explained.
Anyway, years go by and Mortimer and his 12-year-old daughter Meggie (played by 18-year-old Eliza Bennett) are in the Italian hills looking at a quaint little bookshop, in hopes of finding a rare copy of Inkheart so he can summon his wife back. BUT! The book’s villain, Capricorn (Andy Serkis–without any motion capture suits on) has Mortimer, Meggie, and Mortimer’s terse Aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren) captured and brought to his huge castle to meet Darius (John Thompson), his personal Silver Tongue. But alas, Darius stutters, so his book creations (henchmen army, Winged Monkeys from Oz, Peter Pan’s crocodile, a unicorn, a minotaur, etc) are all slightly askew. There’s also a firecharmer called Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) from the book who’ll do anything to go back home.
Capricorn forces Mortimer to read wealth from 1001 Arabian Nights, which brings forth Farid (Rafi Gavron), a young thief (i.e. Ali Baba). When Capricorn decides to kill them, they escape (Mortimer reads the twister part from The Wizard of Oz aloud) and together they hunt down Fenoglio, the Italian author of Inkheart, who happens to be played by British actor Jim Broadbent. Go figure.
There’s the climatic return to Castle Capricorn, the unleashing of a ginormous deadly creature known as The Shadow from the book, and the requisite happy ending with Meggie saving the day by reading the bad guy into oblivion. Oh yeah, turns out she’s a Silver Tongue, too! Isn’t that convenient!?
Based on the novel, this very slow, depressing, and boring adventurous tale has beautiful Italian location shooting, mixed with a dreadful cartoony soundtrack that is so out of place it’s laughable. The screenplay adaptation by noted playwright David Lindsay-Abaire is listless and just drags; this from the man who wrote the book/lyrics for Broadway’s smash hit, Shrek the Musical and won the Pulitzer Prize for Rabbit Hole, a terrific dramatic play. How strange is that?
Fraser had insisted he was not right for this role from the get-go and you can see it in his performance, which along with Bettany’s, were just phoned in. Brit’s Broadbent and Mirren gave it their best, given the source material, and fared better, but it’s Andy Serkis clearly having all the fun here. With no mo-cap suit to wear or having to be digitally disguised later, he just lets loose as a Rowan Atkinson-doppelganger with several screw’s loose. He’s the best part about this whole disappointing movie.
A World Of His Own (Twilight Zone Episode #36, 1960)
Naturally, his wife Victoria (Phyllis Kirk) doesn’t believe him, especially when she sees him cavorting through the window, sharing a drink in his study with Mary (Mary LaRoche), an attractive, affectionate blonde. But when Victoria barges into the room, Mary has vanished and is nowhere to be found. Gregory, wanting to keep his marriage intact, comes clean and explains to his wife that any character that he describes into his dictation machine magically appears according to his description. Apparently he discovered this “talent” one day after putting so much detail in a character of his, that ‘he’ became flesh and blood!
To make it or them disappear, all he has to do is cut out that portion of the tape and throw it into his fireplace. He demonstrates this, first with conjuring up Mary and then with an elephant in the hallway. Believing none of this (despite seeing and hearing the elephant), Victoria tells Gregory that he is insane and she is going to have him committed. In response, Gregory pulls a section of tape in an envelope marked “Victoria” from his safe and explains that it contains her description. Victoria snatches the envelope away from him and throws it on the fire to prove he is insane, and promptly disappears saying in disbelief, “You were right!”
Frantic, Gregory rushes to his dictation machine and begins to re-describe Victoria, but he quickly reconsiders and instead describes Mrs. Mary West as his wife and the beautiful blonde girl reappears instead. This rare Zone comedy, written by the great Richard Matheson, even had host Rod Serling showing up at the end and teasing Wynn about the whole premise of the story – the only time this ever happened in the series where Serling interacted with a character for laughs