Goosebumps

Jack Black turns R.L. Stine's best-selling kid-lit horror tales into a spooky good time

The cast of 'Goosebumps' scream and scream again. Credit: Columbia

Jack Black fires up this crazy-scary-funny film version of R.L. Stine's bestselling kid-lit horror tales. Stine wrote more than a hundred of these spooky buggers. Too much to cram into one movie? You’d think. But director Rob Letterman, working from a script by Darren Lemke, stuffs about 25 monsters into the frenzied fray.

It's a neat trick, done by having Stine (Black) live like a hermit in the burbs of Madison, Delaware, when he's actually living above a metaphorical volcano. I'll explain. Though Stine has  a daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush), he keeps her in his private pumpkin shell. There's a reason. If anyone opens one of Stine's Goosebumps books, monsters will pop off the pages and raise unholy hell. Like that's not going to happen.

The action starts when a New York teen, Zach (the appealing Dylan Minnette), moves in next door with his widowed mom (Amy Ryan), and starts nosing around.  Zach has an instant attraction to Hannah and soon there's no fence Stine can build that will keep the two apart. It's the secret Stine is hiding that creates the only impediment to true love.

What secret? I'll never tell. Suffice it to say that Zach and his BFF, Champ (Ryan Lee), quickly sneak into Stine's library and crack open a book. And, pow, it's the  Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. Nonstop mayhem follows in a stampede of comic terrors ready made for Halloween. Sure it's exhausting. But Goosebumps, knowing its audience, lets it rip.