I watched the first movie again just a few days ago in preparation for GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN, and the movie was better than I remember it. I remember having an awful experience in the theater with two woman just yap yap yapping above me at an advance screening and wouldn’t shut the fuck up after numerous times asking them to be quiet. After walking out of the theater, I thought the movie was okay. On re watch, it is still only okay, but a little bit better giving it my complete attention. I like Jack Black’s performance in the movie, as well as Amy Ryan’s minor role, and the three kids, with 13 Reason’s Why star Dylan Minnette, having good chemistry as well. But there were no scares, were no creepy scenes, it was just a fun, family friendly, little whimsical take on the book series. The Slappy doll was the closest that the first movie got to being creepy, voice to perfection by Jack Black. You see, I read every single volume of the original Goosebumps when I was growing up as a kid, and while the movie was fun to point at and say, “this is from this book and this is from that book”, the story was kind of bland (it just consisted of trying to suck back all the characters into a book which R.L. Stine (Black) had to quickly write in the third act), the monsters were unexciting, and the books were way more entertaining and creepy for someone at that age.
So it’s a little disappointing that Goosebumps 2 was more of the same, and while it did actually succeed to ramp up a couple of kid friendly jump scares and be kind of creepy, when the monsters all come out to play, it was a little bit blander than the first one. In essence, those two things cross each other out and it ends up being just as good as the first one, even though Jack Black is in the film for only 10 minutes (although thankfully he comes back fully to voice Slappy). It seems like this was maybe an unused draft of the first movie that the producers decided to dust off the cobwebs to, have a script doctor change some things, and send quickly into production for a Halloween release. I’ve read somewhere that they had two scripts for this, one that brought back all the returning characters, and one that didn’t. I heard they tried to get Black for the whole movie but he was working on A House With A Clock in Its Walls and was unavailable. So they shot this whole movie, and then Jack Black’s agents called and said, “he’s available for a couple of days of filming if you want to use him in your sequel.” So they quickly went into re shoot mode, got everyone back for a weekend, and it up feeling that all of his scenes are tacked on (especially the sequel set up ending, but Black’s presence still makes the scenes he is in somewhat enjoyable, with a great IT/Stephen King joke reference yet again, continuing those jabs from the original). I wish fucking Sony executives would’ve just waited, and had Black available and Dylan and all the rest of the originals cast schedules come together than try to do basically the same thing but with different characters and just a little bit more creepiness. The time to wait too could’ve also made a new script with a new story nice and tight and ready for an organized and timely shoot.
But, but…you know those Sony executives, if any sequel is 3 years after the original they start to go into panic mode and give audiences a rushed product. But other than the tacked on R.L. Stine sequences, I’ll give it that the movie does feel complete. The first 30-40 minutes of the film has some pretty good set up. It isn’t just 10 minutes of “here are the characters, and then all goofy fake spookiness for the rest of the film.” Jeremy Ray Taylor (who played Ben in the new IT film) and Caleel Harris (who played young Henry Deaver in Stephen King’s Castle Rock Hulu Series) are friends, one is obsessed with the infamous Nikola Tesla, and the other wants to start a junk collecting/cleaning business, are called to an old house to clean some shit out of there. It’s their first junk job, so they want to do a good job. The house they have to clean shit out of is old and creepy and they find a secret passage way to a hidden untitled book, which they open, and Slappy instantly appears and that’s about where I’ll stop before I ruin the entire movie. Taylor’s character has a sister (played coincidentally by the girl in Jumanji that ends up being Jack Black’s avatar) that just wants to write an essay to get into Columbia for college and has a huge crush on a guy that may or may not like her back. Story wise the script pushes her into the story a little bit down the line too. I really liked the movie when Slappy is introduced. I actually jumped a couple of times with some of the kid friendly cheap jump scares the film tries to bring its audience, and the music accompaniment helped as well.
Obviously, you’ve seen from the trailer that Slappy unleashes Goosebumps monsters eventually, and that is where the movie falls flat. The three teenagers basically do the same things that the teenagers did in the first one and try to find some way to stop Slappy and get all the monsters back into a book. Some of the sequences weren’t bad, like the giant balloon spider that Ken Jeong’s character (yes, he’s in this and is still annoying as fuck) builds over his house because of course his single lonely guy character is really into Halloween because the script says he needs to be. And the gummy bear sequence is okay, would’ve been better if not for the terribly shitty CGI, but all the other monsters fall flat, especially when the Haunted Mask makes an appearance. The characters mother, played not as over the top by Reno 911’s Wendi McClendon-Covey, is actually a movie mom you’d want to have around, and she has a great laugh out loud joke moment in her introduction in the film. The film does kind of waste her in the climax though…
Ugh, my review is way too long for a movie like this. In summation, I think it would’ve been cooler if the marketing had made Jack Black’s appearance more of a secret. It was at first, but then studio executives got nervous the movie wouldn’t do well and ruined the surprise in a TV spot. It’s also questionable when watching this where you end up craving going to Netflix and watching the cheesy low budget TV series, that focused on individual stories rather than trying to group of monsters into a contrived plot. So am I giving this a recommendation? I will if you have kids. Looking around the theater, kids were loving this and eating this movie up, and the adults looked like they were pleased that their kids were having a good time. If you are a lonely, die hard old Goosebumps fan, you are likely to be a little disappointed, probably like you were with the first film. It’s all more of the same, and if you are fine with that, then you are likely to get something out of it.