Based on the fact that author R.L. Stine has sold hundreds of millions of books and a man dubbed the Stephen King of children’s books, you would think that this cinematic tribute (of sorts) to him would be of a higher quality. This is a teenage film mixed with the type of horror light that Stine based many of his novels on. That is not the problem. The problems lies in the corny lines, Jack Black’s typical over the top acting and too much comedy at the expense of the horror aspect.
Having lost his father in the last year and now moving from the hustle and bustle of New York City to suburban Madison, Delaware is not what teenager Zach Cooper (played by Dylan Minnette) wants…in any way. But his mother (played by Amy Ryan) has gotten a job as vice-principal in a high school. Another negative for Zach is that she will be vice-principal at his high school. Now he is not only the new kid, but the son of the vice-principal equalling two strikes against him.
Things begin to look up for Zach after he meets one of his next door neighbours. She is a teenage girl of his age named Hannah (played by Odeya Rush) and they click instantly. Unfortunately, she does not go to his school as she is home schooled. Another sticky issue for Zach is her father (played by Jack Black), who is quite strange and makes it quite clear to Zach that he wants him no where near Hannah. Very clear.
After a few incidents involving him, Hannah, his new friend Champ (played by Ryan Lee) and a manuscript written by R.L. Stine, it becomes apparent to all those involved that somehow all the monsters that Stine has “created” in his books have come to life. Now it is going to be up to this motley crew and Stine himself to return them all to where they have come from.
You don’t have to have read any of Stine’s novels to enjoy or follow the film. It is of the nostalgic style of family film that is not often made today. Meant to entertain the entire family. For the most part it is charming. Director Rob Letterman attempts to walk the tightrope between comedy and horror. Mostly well executed.
While there are some fun moments in the film, the chemistry between Rush and Minnette is great, for the most part the special effects are cool and the acting of Amy Ryan is strong it still does not add up to the fantastic adventure it could have.
A word of warning is that it might be a little too scary for little ones.
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