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My Cynicism vs. Goosebumps (2015)

I've fallen so far behind the mainstream lately that I have literally zero concept of what's considered "good" and "bad" by the general public.  (Yeah, I know, insert your joke about my books right here.  But please buy one first.)  I'm sure part of me is just growing up so that I care less and less about having the "right" opinion.  But there's other parts of me that cling vainly to the bandwagon mentality.

Since I don't have the time to follow movie news, I sometimes use extremely loose heuristics instead.  Remake = garbage, adaptation = stupid, comic book movie = probably okay, but will annoy me anyway, etc.  So when I heard they made a Goosebumps movie - not even an adaptation of any particular book, just a movie called "Goosebumps" - my gut reaction was, "Well, that's surely terrible.  It's twenty years too late."

And this is why you don't come up with snotty rules to tell you which movies to see, people.  Goosebumps is totally fine.

It's got its weak points, sure:  There's a sort of creepy women-as-property undercurrent with the female lead.  The effects devolve into bland CGI confetti a lot of the time.  The R.L. Stine character is a bit hackneyed.  Et cetera.

But ignore all that.  It's just fun.

The movie has a breezy "what a crazy day" pace that will either win you over by minute 30 or, at worst, not distract you from your phone while you wait for your kid to finish watching.  Plus, all the teen actors are actually good - how often does that happen?

Goosebumps also has the distinction of being one of maybe six movies in Hollywood history to feature an age-appropriate adult couple.  Miraculously, they cast Amy Ryan (48) as the lead's mom, and she is courted by Ken Marino (47).  Like... holy crap, I think that floored me more than anything else.  Good job, Goosebumps!  Your casting director deserves a raise.  (And not just for the age thing - Amy Ryan should be in more movies in general.)

Now, here's the peculiar thing.  Goosebumps is very similar in tone, pace, comic timing, etc. to Jumanji, another CGI-laden kid movie adapted from a book.  And Jumanji is another movie that, at the time it came out, I refused to accept as being possibly a good movie.  Critics at the time had the same attitude, from what I can recall.

But today, Jumanji is nothing but a delight to me.  There's definitely a huge nostalgia factor at play, but beyond that, it's a great kid adventure.  Like Goosebumps, it has kids in legitimate peril who actually contribute to the resolution rather than just sitting in the back screaming or making stupid cutesy jokes.  It's a movie where the kids know they're going to die unless they step up and become heroes, and they do so in interesting ways.  In other words - the kids get to do cool shit, and they actually kinda seem cool doing it.  (Unsurprisingly, the kid actors in Jumanji were also good.)

Of course, if you hate kids, then none of this is going to sell you on it.  But why are you watching movies about kids in the first place?  You weirdo.

So, why is it that I was so compelled to hate Jumanji back then, as I was compelled to hate Goosebumps now?  Beats me.  Back then I was entering that weird phase where I was going into middle school and I had to shun as much stuff as possible, because enjoying things wasn't hip.  Or something.  Jumanji, like most kiddie fare, was a hidden pleasure, a guilty indulgence that I couldn't let other kids know I liked.

Now that I'm an old idiot with a blog, I realize how comforting it was for me.  It was like I was entering this crazy, scary new world where I'd hear other kids say "fuck" and I wanted to run and hide, but at the same time, I kinda wanted to find out what action movies were all about.  Jumanji was a nice little security blanket.  A tidy little adventure movie to hold my grade school hand and say, "Hey, it's okay, guy.  It might look a little scary, but that's part of the fun."

Whatever sneering, pre-adolescent garbage was on my mind at the time has gone away and I'm left with a really great, warm feeling when I think about that movie.  I can only imagine Goosebumps will do the same for a lot of kids twenty years from now.  You know something?  That's as good a reason as any to give it a recommendation.

My Rating: 4 / 5