Many children of the 1990s were introduced to the tropes for old-fashioned scary storytelling - several of which are featured in the recent popular James Wan supernatural horror films Insidious and The Conjuring (as well as the less-beloved Dead Silence) - by author R.L. Stine through his Goosebumps book series. The stories would pit one or more different underage main characters against a colorful assortment of monsters and creatures - some being more comical than others (Monster Blood-fueled giant hamsters!).
The anthology format of Stine's children's literature is a natural fit for the television medium (a Goosebumps TV series aired from 1995-1998), yet the challenge of putting together a cinematic adaptation has so far proven to be unsurmountable for the same reason. Tim Burton was going to produce a Goosebumps feature-length film back in 1998, but it's only been in recent years that such a project has started to make genuine progress towards becoming a reality.
The Wrap is reporting that Jack Black has entered negotiations to headline Sony Pictures' Goosebumps movie, which has Neal H. Moritz (Fast and the Furious) and Scholastic Entetainment's Deborah Forte (The Golden Compass) producing. Currently attached to direct is Rob Letterman, who collaborated with Black on the DreamWorks' animated feature Shark Tale and the family-friendly modern live-action Gulliver's Travels movie. (We'll go out on a ledge and say that "From the team that brought you Gulliver's Travels" won't be the Goosebumps tagline.)
Black is reportedly lined up to portray "a Stine-like author whose scary characters literally leap off the page, forcing him to hide from his own creepy creations." Truth be told, that's not a bad approach to making a Kafka-esque setup more accessible to an underage audience. Question is, can screenwriter Darren Lemke - a co-writer on DreamWorks' Shrek Forever After and Turbo CGI 'toons and (presumably) the scribe responsible for the more family-friendly elements in the fairy tale re-imagining/box office bomb Jack the Giant Slayer - make something clever out of that concept.
Goosebumps, as you're undoubtedly realized by now, is going to be targeted more at a new generation of moviegoers and not so much the nostalgic 20-30 years olds who read the books when they were younger. It's an appropriate move, since that is whom the original stories by Stine were meant for; yet, the the Letterman-Black team could be a worrisome sign that suggests the film might throw in unnecessary amounts of adult irony and cynicism (call it Smurfs syndrome).
By comparison, Lemke's work in the DreamWorks' animation department is a bit more encouraging - if only because his scripts have generally made for decent (if unremarkable) kids' movies in the past. Here is to hoping that the Goosebumps film doesn't feel the need to go heavy on the snarky asides; after all, it's not really necessary to have it spelled out for adults and/or kids that Jack Black being chased around by mummies, ventriloquist dummies and giant killer worms (among other things) is inherently kind of silly.
Will you be taking yours kids and/or younger relations to see the Goosebumps movie when it opens in theaters?
Goosebumps is currently without an official release date.
Source: The Wrap