By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
* Spoiler Alert
Jack Black is more than R. L. Stine in the Goosebumps film franchise. His goofy charm on screen makes for a lot of fun. But when considering he’s also in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, which was in theatres last month, perhaps the lack of his presence was intentional so no confusion is made.
In the sequel, the heroes are Sarah Quinn (Madison Iseman), younger brother Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and friend to the family Sam Carter (Caleel Harris). The boys start up their own junkyard business and on their first job; they find a mysterious book inside a Pandora’s box. Before they know it, Slappy the Dummy (Mick Wingert), appears and they speak the words to give him life again.
The chaos gets better, and the film loses track in what to emphasize. It is first and foremost a tale about bonding. When Sarah wants to leave the sleepy town of Wardenclyffe, New York, the rest of the Quinn family feel disheartened. The ventriloquist’s doll has familial issues too and goes about creating his own through nefarious means. He does not care about who he hurts. At this film’s core, the juxtapositions are worth noting. When the story needs to be a Goosebumps story, the cameos from all of R. L. Stine‘s works need to be made. I stopped trying to recognize them all after the half-hour mark. Afterward, the focus on the horror can be made. As a family-friendly film, the kids will enjoy this romp but adult fans will be rolling their eyes.
We have gummy bears, jack-o-lantern soldiers and mummies straggling across the screen. The non-digital beasts seen in the background are more appealing to see than the computer. While the balloon-spider is the most amusing creation to terrorize the town, this movie lacks any authentic scares.
Admittedly, put me in a haunted house attraction with nothing but mannequins and porcelain dolls in low light, the hairs on my skin would stand on its end. But with this film, the supernatural charm is lost. The idea of using Tesla’s Wardenclyffe tower to turn the town into Halloween every day is familiar. I’m fairly sure the idea is straight out of Ghostbusters, but minus Gozer’s coming to rule the world.
Also, the subplot about Sam and Sonny being bullied lacks substance. The conflict is cliched and rushed. Had this film been ten minutes longer, to understand what’s going on here would have been better.
Should this cinematic franchise get a part three, the series is most likely going to be finished when considering the circumstances of the ending. The first film suggested The Invisible Boy’s Revenge was coming and he was nowhere in this narrative. Hopefully, the same mistake will not be made twice.
3 Stars out of 5