Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween - 2018
Director(s): Ari Sandel
Writer(s): Rob Lieber and Darren Lemke (screenplay) / R.L. Stine (books)
Cinematography by: Barry Peterson
Editor(s): Keith Brachmann and David Rennie
Cast: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Ken Jeong, Chris Parnell and Jack Black
When Goosebumps came out in 2015, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it was made and how much I enjoyed my time. It captured the spirit of the books and it evoked imagery of the series while transferring it into the cinematic scope. So I was slightly looking forward to watching this sequel, despite the limited participation from its star, Jack Black. Walking-out of its sequel I can’t help to think of it as a step down, both in quality and the cinematic scope, but that doesn’t mean that the target audience (kids) won’t enjoy it.
The story centers around two high school friends that come across a magical book. Once they open the book, a powerful, evil ventriloquist dummy is released - a dummy with a master plan of creating his own family of all the staple monsters at your local Halloween store. This movie is a tale of two stories, really. The first half is riddled with family tropes like a single mother that can’t handle the household and is relying on her oldest to help-out, high school tropes like outcast kids persecuted by the bully and his two friends, the boyfriend that seems too good to be true. With it being so heavily reliant on these tropes and the acting not been that great, it just felt like a cover band playing the hits of bands that did it way better. The movie significantly picks up after the dummy, Slappy, unleashes his powers on the town and the kids are fighting off everything they encounter. I had fun, even if it has a predictable structure.
Quick note: while Jack Black is credited and appears in the latest trailers, I suspect to boost the sales a bit, his role is inconsequential and underwhelming. If you take him out of the movie, it doesn’t change the outcome at all.
Ari Sandel did a good job keeping the movie running at a great pace, as the runtime is a digestible 1hr and 40min. Just like the script, he shines during the action sequences. The use of practical effects and CGI is well done for the budget the movie has. There are some sequences that made me squint a bit as the special effect aren’t up to par, but they are rare. I think the biggest knock I have with Sandel’s direction is the performance he got out of the kids. I did enjoy Jeong and Parnell, but they are veteran actors that know how to play their part and bring some laughs to everything they touch.
Quick note: Mick Wingert voiced Slappy and he clearly had a blast and knew exactly what movie he was in. He reminded me of the voice Mark Hamill provides for the animated Joker.
Goosebumps 2 is a serviceable sequel that has flashes of entertainment but never reaches the fun I had while watching the original. It felt like an episode on the big screen rather than a movie interpretation of an episode. But if you look back at my critique of the movie you will notice that all of these are things that the target audience won’t care about at all. They don’t care about tropes, performances and wasted opportunities, they care that the giant gummy bear tried to eat a kid because a talking dummy made him do it, and the kids around me had a blast. I would argue that if you are looking for a movie to take your kids, go watch The House with a Clock in Its Walls. If you already saw it, this isn’t the worst option in the world. Slappy is why I love movies.
Goosebumps 2 is currently playing in theaters. Not a bad Netflix movie or a matinee movie to watch with your kids.
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