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Movie Review: "Goosebumps 2" Is Good Halloween Fun, But Pales to the Original

Starring Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, 
Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Chris Parnell and  Ken Joeong
    Screenplay by Rob Lieber
    Directed by Ari Sandel

Reviewed by Patrick Gibbs

Out of Four

In the small town of Wardenclyffe, New York, on Halloween Night,  two boys named Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor, best known as Ben Hansomb in It) and Sam (Caleel Harris) find a manuscript in an abandoned house that was previously owned by R.L. Stine, entitled  "Haunted Halloween." When they open it, they release Slappy, the living ventriloquist dummy, who plans to create the Halloween Apocalypse with the help of his monster allies. Now, Sonny and Sam, alongside Sonny's sister, Sarah (Madsion Iseman), must work to thwart Slappy's plot before all is lost.

First a demonic clown, now this.
(Image courtesy Sony Pictures)
The 2015 Goosebumps film wasn't a genuine modern classic, but it was clever and creative, and populated with engaging characters. I have a pretty strong fondness for it, and it has a very devoted following as a family friendly thriller and October treat. Haunted Halloween isn't up to the quality of the original, playing just above a straight to video sequel in terms of scale and production value, and in terms of relying almost entirely on new characters.But it doesn't in any way ruin the original, which may sound like faint praise, but if you judge it by that standard, Goosebumps 2 really isn't bad.

Young Madison Iseman once again
stands in for Jack Black.

(Image courtesy Sony Pictures)
Top billing goes by default to Wendi McLendon-Covey as Kathy Quinn, Sonny and Sarah's mother, but she is not the lead character. In fact, the film's biggest weakness is an inability to decide exactly who the protagonist is; is it Sonny? Sam? The Son of Sam? Or is it Sarah (after all, she's the oldest, marketably cute and blond, and having shared the role of Bethany with Jack Black in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, she's the next best thing to having him as a major presence. All three kids are likable enough, but none of them have much of an arc journey to go through as characters. At the most, by the end the teenagers who didn't get along with each other too badly as teenagers go get along even less badly, and that's about it in terms of growth.

Director Ari Sandel (The DUFF) is actually an Academy Award Winner, having helmed the short film West Bank Story in 2005, and he does a very capable job within the limits he is given for his work. The screenplay by Rob Lieber can best be described an innocuous (you won't be cringing, but even the kids won't be quoting any of the dialogue.).But it does movie at a brisk pace, and the effects are up good, esepecially the much hyped gummi bears and a group of Halloween costumes brought to life.

Insert bear pun here.
(Image courtesy Sony Pictures)

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is a solid (and safe) bet for the kids during the fight season, and you should be able to enjoy it as a family (especially if you go on bargain night.). As someone who really only enjoys this time of year as it relates to the kiddies,  I found it a welcome distraction from the grown up (if far more immature) horrors that were going on in America last Saturday when I saw it.

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Movie Review: "Goosebumps 2" Is Good Halloween Fun, But Pales to the Original


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