Why are young boys so hell bent on being infatuated with the girl next door? Haven’t they heard of stranger danger? Just because they live within a hundred yards of your own house, does not mean you can start pursuing the adolescent child, of your neighbour, as a romantic love interest.
Of course this is Goosebumps, so rather than turning out to be a teenage version of American Beauty, Zachary Cooper (Dylan Minnette) finds himself face to face with the girl of his dreams and a myriad of supernatural third-wheels to his dating experience; Not to mention the fact that his love interest’s old man is R. L. Stine himself.
In the same ‘Pandora’s box’-vein as Jumanji, Zachary and his buddy Champ (Ryan Lee) recklessly open the manuscripts of Stine, while snooping for mementos they can steal from Hannah Stine (Odeya Rush) – presumably so they can stare at them dreamily while fantasising about a ghoul free future in Suburban American. Stine’s back catalogue of monstrous creations escapes from the manuscripts and subsequently wreak havoc on the city.
This setup is disappointing on two fronts. Firstly because half the appeal of R. L. Stine is his real life enigmatic persona, is brought to life in the most unlikely form of Jack Black. It ruins any notions fans may have had of the authors appearance or true existence (that is to say despite the real R. L. Stine having made a number of public appearances throughout his life, it’s easy to imagine the real R. L. Stine may indeed be merely a dark cellar full of ghost-writers).
The second disappointment is the lack of plot surrounding the escape of the monsters from the manuscripts. It doesn’t hold a candle to Jumanji in terms of overarching purpose, nor does it serve to teach adults or children any useful life lessons.
In short it provides kids with the Hollywood fallacy that you can pursue the attentions of the most attractive girl at school as long as she lives next door and despite her widowed father being a ferocious disciplinarian. Jack Black is better than this film, and the 1990’s television adaption was miles ahead of this monstrosity.