Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween – good, clean, family fun

Review: The really scary part is that there is so little Jack Black in this sequel

Film Title: Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

Director: Ari Sandel

Starring: Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Ken Jeong, Jack Black

Genre: Family

Running Time: 90 min

Fri, Oct 19, 2018, 05:00

   

It’s hard to quarrel with RL Stine’s Goosebumps in any capacity. With a 62-book span throughout the 1990s, Goosebumps has been read by hundreds of millions of kids – to the annoyance of thousands of miserable adults. (Is there any higher recommendation for a kids’ book than to regularly feature among the most banned and challenged texts by the American Library Association, due to “occult and demonic themes”?) The TV anthology series of the late 1990s – a tween take on The Twilight Zone – was so fondly remembered by its target pre-teen audience that, two decades later, they dutifully shelled out to bring their kids to the monstrously successful, $150-million-grossing 2015 reboot.

The inevitable Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is grand, like. Contrary to the dire accompanying warnings on the promotional materials – “Children under eight years old may find some of the film’s content too scary” – it’s good, clean all-ages fun. (Who are these milquetoast children? And however will they survive Instagram?)

Soon enough, Slappy is causing mayhem and attempting some silly stab at world domination

But the picture is haunted, all right: haunted by the absence of Jack Black, who turns up as RL Stine in a late and insignificant cameo. It thus falls to an entirely new set of younger characters to do the heavy lifting, a likeable crew including Tesla-obsessed science geek Sonny, his best friend Sam, and Sonny’s older college-applicant sister. When Sonny and Sam stumble across a spooky book and a spooky ventriloquist’s dummy in a spooky house, they unwisely pile their haul into a pull-along wagon, not knowing the doll is Slappy, the evil megalomaniac from the first film. Soon enough, Slappy is causing mayhem and attempting some silly stab at world domination using animated Halloween costumes and a Tesla tower.

The young cast are charming, and Ken Jeong is fun as their Halloween-obsessed neighbour, but one can’t help but feel that The House with a Clock in its Walls, though not an unqualified success, is a better, cleverer Goosebumps film than this one. It’s not Goosebumps, of course, but at least they don’t skimp on Jack Black.

A welcome seasonal family entertainment, nonetheless.