Based on the much loved book series by R.L. Stine, this takes a rather novel approach to its source material. Instead of cherry picking through the numerous characters within their pages, and creating a movie just about them, here Stine himself has a central role – or at least a version of him.
Portrayed by Black, he lives a mysterious existence with his daughter Hannah (Rush). When they get a new neighbour in the form of Zach Cooper (Minette) Hannah is immediately taken with him. Despite Stine warning him off, the pair start to spend a lot of time together. Unfortunately letting Zach into their lives is about to expose Stine’s biggest secret – his characters are real, and can escape from their books if his original manuscripts aren’t kept padlocked.
When a series of misunderstandings leads to all his creepy ghouls running around in the real world, the trio, alongside Zach’s new friend, Champ (Lee), must try and capture them back into the pages they burst from, before they wreak total havoc.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a fan of Jack Black, but here his frenetic energy is put to good use, as the pace never lets up. If possible, he seems to have more energy than his three young co-stars combined.
However, this isn’t so much about the cast as the motley crew of monster and ghouls that are released into the real world. With hundreds of them descending on the town, it can be hard to keep track, and some of them are more engaging than others. It is no mean feat bringing that many creatures to life, so the filmmakers are to be commended for their ambition.
This is a romp in every sense of the word. It’s silly and fun and engaging and at times some people will even find it a little bit frightening (the kids at the screening I attended veered between claiming not to have been scared by the monsters to cowering at the thoughts of them).
The script is pretty formulaic, and at times it is more like a made-for-TV Halloween movie than a big screen monster fest, but although it is a bit haphazard in places, it is always entertaining. Even though I’m not the target audience, I left with a smile on my face, and there are not one, but two, twists at the end, that should satisfy most viewers.
A lovely homage to a much-loved series of books, this is the kind of movie that a grown up could go to without having to borrow a friend’s children, but if you can get a group of little ones to attend with you, then you’ll have far more fun.
In Cinemas Now! (PG 1hr 43 mins)