by Patrick Bromley
I was very, very wary of Goosebumps when it hit theaters in 2015. I did not grow up reading the R.L. Stine books, so it's not like I was carrying baggage into the movie. But I thought the trailers made it look busy and shouty and stupid, full of bad CG and Jack Black hamming it up. When I did finally see it at the last second run theater anywhere near my hometown, I discovered that Goosebumps is the very definition of a pleasant surprise: smart, sweet, well made (minus some of that CG), and exactly the kind of movie that helps turns young kids on to being scared and loving monsters. Like in the case of The LEGO Movie, the filmmakers took what could have and should have been a bad idea and turned it into something special -- something that cares about its audience and treats them as intelligent no matter their age.
Best friends Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor, Ben from last year's IT) and Sam (Caleel Harris) are cleaning out the abandoned Stine house when they come across an unfinished book and Slappy the ventriloquist dummy, who is brought back to life by an incantation and wants to start a family with the boys, Sonny's older sister Sarah (Madison Iseman) and Sonny's mom (Wendy McLendon-Covey). Slappy casts a spell over the whole town that brings all of its Halloween decorations to life, leaving Sonny, Sarah, and Sam to fight the monsters off while trying to figure out how to undo the spell and trap Slappy back inside the unfinished book. Somehow, Nikola Tesla factors into all of this in a pretty major way.