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segunda-feira, 8 de fevereiro de 2016
Goosebumps review: 'an ingenious action-comedy'
Jack Black stars in a bombastic reimagining of the children's horror stories of RL Stine
In one sense, Goosebumps is a Pirandellian meditation on authorship vis-à-vis Foucault's conception of writing as voluntary obliteration of the self. But in another, it’s an hour and three quarters of Jack Black running around screaming. Basically, there’s something for everyone.
This adaptation of R.L. Stine’s million-selling series of horror novels for younger readers comes within a hair’s breadth of Lego Movie-level ingenious, and occasionally touches Gremlins-level sinister into the bargain.
If you’re not au courant with the Stinean oeuvre, think Stephen King for school children. The titles alone, which include Night of the Living Dummy, Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes and The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, should give you the idea.
In an imaginative twist, Black stars as a fictionalised version of Stine himself, who’s hiding out in a quiet suburban neighbourhood under the assumed name of Mr. Shivers, and talks in that strange, effete, vaguely English accent only ever used by Jack Black characters pretending to be someone else. His cover is soon blown by new-boy-next-door Zach (Dylan Minnette), who breaks into his cellar one night when he fears Hannah (Odeya Rush), Stine’s wispy, permanently Instagram-ready daughter, might be in jeopardy.
His hunch proves right. Stine has locked his personal demons inside a case of original Goosebumps manuscripts – and when the covers are opened, out tumble the freaks, including the aforementioned Yeti and evil garden ornaments, some aliens with a freeze-ray, plus Slappy, a ventriloquist’s doll who’s effectively Stine’s peppery id run amok. It falls to the three teens (including Zach’s geeky tag-along friend Champ, played by Ryan Lee) to round up Stine’s creations before they destroy the town and their tormented author with it.
Given its target audience’s age, it’s only reasonable that Goosebumps’s definition of scary is "quiet then suddenly eardrum-burstingly loud". Jump-scares abound, and while a few of the creatures might unsettle very young viewers (a pack of ghouls and a Pennywise-like clown are all fairly horrible), the genre dial is decisively twisted to action-comedy. The director, Rob Letterman, last worked with Black on their underrated 2010 Gulliver’s Travels take-off: if you’ve seen that, you’ll know what to expect.
The fun peaks mid-film with a set piece in which the garden gnomes lay siege to Stine’s kitchen. There's a chaotic, Joe Dante-ish flavour to the sequence, and its 1980s-video-rental vibe is only enhanced by a ceaselessly bombastic Danny Elfman score. But once the film has worked itself into a frenzy, it can’t calm down again, and the action becomes progressively louder and duller, while the will-o’-the-wisp lustre of its original conceit recedes into the CGI murk.
That’s a pity, because Goosebumps might have better lived up to the flesh-creeping promise of its title with a few shocks by stealth – the kind of macabre details Dante crammed into Gremlins, which kept bubbling in your mind long after the lights went up. A giant praying mantis, hungrily rolling back car roofs like the lids of sardine tins, might be thrilling in the moment, but even to a 10-year-old, it feels like kids’ stuff.