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R.L. Stine's creatures come to the big screen in 'Goosebumps'
Jack Black stars in Columbia Pictures' "Goosebumps." - photo by Melissa DeMoux
With thrills aplenty and a healthy dose of creatures pulled from the pages of R.L. Stines vast collection of book-born horrors, Goosebumps is a dynamic romp on the big screen.

Rather than hone in on any one particular chilling story, Goosebumps dabbles in Stines deep assemblage of spooks, calling in glimpses of dozens of his popular tales for young readers.

Following the death of his father, Zach (Dylan Minnette) moves with his mother (Amy Ryan) from New York to a small town in Delaware. Hoping for a fresh start, Zach attempts to fall into life in the quiet neighborhood, but he cant escape the mystery of a perplexing girl living next door.

Hannah (Odeya Rush) cant stay away from Zach despite the demands of her overbearing and frightening father (Jack Black).

But when Zach overhears a screeching argument between the father and daughter, he cant ignore it. Circumstances lead him and his clunky sidekick of a new best friend Champ (Ryan Lee) into a clandestine trip through Hannahs house. The boys discover Hannahs father is none other than the famous author R.L. Stine, but they also uncover a shocking secret about Stines stories and accidentally unleash a string of terrible monsters in the process.

Having been freed from his confinement in the pages of Stines book, Slappy, a wicked ventriloquist dummy voiced by Black, seeks to make that freedom permanent by liberating every character from Stines imagination still trapped in a paperback prison.

Hannah and Zack join forces with Stine, Champ and a handful of other characters to try to right the wrong and return these creepy storybook creatures to their rightful home. When the beasts converge on the high school dance, a dynamic battle of good versus evil real versus fiction brings small-town life right into the center of a terrifying story.

While the story itself is a bit flat in places, the overall flair of the film makes up for it. It is a film that kids will revel in and adults can enjoy, too.

Minnette makes an endearing leading man, and Rush echoes his tenacity and spunk as they move through the plot. The two are a loveable pair.

Blacks character as the father of these fears is more dry and brittle but fits as he leads the group of teens through the muddle of monsters morphed from the pages of his books. While Black is more subdued and angst-ridden than in some previous roles, the script threads a tidy array of comic moments through the fabric of the film, many of them stemming from Jillian Bell, who plays Zachs quirky and bedazzling aunt.

Although the creatures portrayed in the film are eerie and odd, they are never gory or graphic, but there are a few intense moments. Some of the leading frights include a troupe of awkwardly creaking garden gnomes, a gigantic praying mantis, a beastly poodle, an evil car, an oozing gelatinous blob and an abominable snow monster.

That said, the movie has plenty of jump-scares and startling moments, and young viewers will likely get their fill of ghouls, werewolves and creepy clowns. Viewers can also expect a steady stream of homage moments paying tribute to famous horror films from the past.

While the movie scrambles from place to place leaving little room for character development or deep moments, it is a fun frolic as the pages of Stines typewritten thrillers come to life on the big screen.

Goosebumps is rated PG for scary and intense creature action and images, and for some rude humor; running time: 103 minutes.