As a huge* Jack Black fan, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to screen Goosebumps as well as interview Black and the other lead actors from the movie, which will be released nationwide in 3D on October 16, 2015….just in time for Halloween.
Goosebumps (rated PG) stars Jack Black as author R.L. Stine, Dylan Minnette as Zach (who also appeared in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), Odeya Rush as Hannah (The Giver and The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and Ryan Lee as Champ (This is Forty and Super 8).
The movie is about teenager Zach Cooper who is upset about moving from NYC to a small town in Delaware. Shortly after moving in, Zach meets his beautiful neighbor, Hannah and her father who he later finds out is Goosebumps series writer, R.L. Stine. Stine is a prisoner of his own imagination because the monsters from his books come to life if not kept locked within their pages. When Zach unintentionally unleashes the monsters from their manuscripts and they begin to terrorize the town, it’s up to Stine, Zach, and Hannah along with Champ (Zach’s likable but easily frightened new friend) to get all of them back in the books.
Since 1992, author R.L. Stine has written nearly 200 Goosebumps books featuring monsters of all shapes, sizes and varying degrees of scariness. I read books from the Goosebumps series to my son when he was younger and we’d both liked the stories that struck a balance between fear and funny that made the books enjoyable for both kids and adults.
According to Black, that was the main thing R.L. Stine wanted to come across in the movie as well. “R.L. told me to be conscientious of his audience,” said Black. “There are a lot of kids that will come to the movie so don’t go too terrifying. You can scare, but don’t traumatize. Keep the laughs and the scares coming and make it more like a thrill ride then a nightmare inducing horror fest,” said Black. “Like there’s no blood in the movie….we rode that line.”
It’s this balance that director Rob Letterman (who also produced and worked with Black on Gulliver’s Travels) and the actors worked to create in the movie and they definitely nailed it.
“I sat next to him (Stine) when we watched it (the movie) in New York and he was super stoked,” said Black. “That was the most important audience member to me, more than any of the critics, it was ‘What does R.L. think?’ – the fact that he loved it was gold to me.”
One example when humor breaks up the intensity of a scary scene is when they are in the middle of a car chase and Lee (whose character, Champ, is a big fan of the author Stine) tries to take a selfie with him to post on Instagram. Black (as Stine) throws his smartphone out the car window and Lee is crushed.
The struggle is real, Lee! I tried to control any possible Black fangirling in an effort to act professional during our meeting, but couldn’t resist getting a selfie with him and the rest of the gang which immediately (obviously) went up on Instagram!
Goosebumps the movie is based on the books written by R.L. Stine but not adapted from any one story. In fact, you’ll be happy to see dozens of the monsters you loved to hate from the series including the infamous Slappy the Dummy who leads the monster’s revolt against Stine. “He’s like the Hannibel Lecter or Darth Vador of all the characters because he’s the mastermind, he’s the smartest and the most sinister, he represents the darkest part of R.L.’s psyche,” said Black.
Black is the voice of Slappy and Avery Lee Jones was the puppeteer.
In the beginning of the movie, Jack Black is downright mean…but after the monsters are released and he begins to work with Minnette, Rush and Lee to save the world, he’s very funny and extremely likable.
Black visited the real R.L. Stine while preparing for the role; however, the movie’s character does not depict the real R.L. Stein’s personality who is actually very funny and down to earth. “He’s an amazing guy,” said Black. “He’s a brilliant writer so I kept that in mind while I was playing him. But the character in the movie is a lot darker…he has this sinister quality about him and is an antisocial guy who has locked out the outside world and that couldn’t be further from the case with the real R.L. Stine,” he said.
Stine didn’t mind the major departure. “He understood that’s the way we needed to play it,” said Black. “And he loved the movie.” Black gave the character a bit of an Orson Wells type accent with a taste for the finer things and a bit of vanity and pride about his writing track record. There are several funny mentions of a rivalry between him and Stephen King.
Look for the real R.L. Stine who appears at the very end of the movie, albeit very briefly, as the new drama teacher named Mr. Black.
There are Easter Eggs throughout the movie including during the kitchen scene when the garden gnomes attack Black. They tie him up much like what was done to him in Gullivers Travels. There’s also a nod to the Cuckoo Clock of Doom in Stine’s basement. “Every monster that was ever in a Goosebumps book is in the movie somewhere,” said Black. “Sometimes they’re way in the back ground, so it’s fun to look for them – like a Where’s Waldo!”
You’ll see characters like The Ghouls from Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls, Snake Lady from Escape from the Carnival of Horrors, Bog Monster from You Can’t Scare Me! and others such as Cronby the cave troll, The Evil Clown, Vampires, The Witch Doctor, The Werewolf and The Abominable Snowman (who is the first to be accidentally released).
The Bug-Eyed Aliens, Praying Mantis and Blob were key monsters in the movie and the visual effects were cool. “The blob was entirely computer generated, so it was all imagination and the director painting the picture for us,” said Black. When it sucks Black into his body in the movie, Black was actually just standing on a table pretending like he was in jello.
Given the film’s rating and how comedy offsets the darker side, I do recommend the film to families with children. Yet, Slappy can be a little disturbing. Dolls that come to life and want to destroy the world can be a little creepy, so know your kids and what they can handle. I won’t have a problem taking my 9 year-old daughter and 14 year-old son. But I’ll probably cover my eyes when Slappy is on screen. He gives me (wait for it) goosebumps!
Check back on Still Living The Dream for a post about other fun things I learned during my visit with Jack Black and the other cast members!
*For clarification, when I say “huge” I’m referring to the amount of admiration I have for Jack Black not my actual size. I mean, I do have some weight to take off – but I’m only 4’10” which is actually quite small!
Disclosure: I was invited to a movie screening and given the opportunity to interview the actors as a member of the press for review purposes. I did not receive any compensation and all thoughts and opinions and fear of ventriloquist dummies are my own!