I love when I see a movie that I expect to be a tad lame, but come up entertained for reasons completely unrelated to the plot.
The new Goosebumps film, while maintaining a nostalgic simplicity, is littered with unnecessary, and at times distracting psychosexual tension. Spoilers abound.
You might assume that a movie where boundless numbers of eerie creatures from your childhood run rampant through Madison, Delaware would have enough going on. The characters however, would disagree. Every major character is consumed by, or involved in some stage of “hooking up.” For the teenagers, it’s unsurprising, but everyone attempts to, or gets in on the action.
The main protagonist Zach, played by Dylan Minnette is a 16-year-old new kid in the small town, and he is enamored by Hannah, the adorable girl next door played by Odeya Rush. Hannah is the story’s “twist,” as R.L. Stine, played by Jack Black would say. Hannah and Zach fall in “love” the old fashioned way, as two teenagers overcoming traumatic events. Hannah happens to be a “monster” created by Stine to subdue his loneliness, but before that’s revealed, it’s assumed that she is Stine’s daughter. More later on the weirdness of that situation.
Zach finds himself in a forced friendship with an archetypal nerd stereotype who just barely missed the casting for The Big Bang Theory named Champ, or Chump if you’re a pretty girl. Imagining what Champ might do for physical contact with a woman is the scariest part of the movie. He is adamant about his need, voicing it at every conceivable opportunity, thirsty as they say. Eventually he is kissed by some blonde cheerleader girl, and melts into oblivion and likely, his underwear.
Zach’s family unit plays on the “I had a wonderful dad that used to play baseball with me but is now dead for some unspoken reason” movie trope. Zach’s conveniently single mother, Gale, played by Amy Ryan is an assistant principal at his school. Gale is accosted, relentlessly by the unwanted advances of the live action Pepe Le Pew, or Coach Carr, played by Ken Marino. Rapey is the guy’s middle name. He frequently attempts to fondle Gale while she’s chaperoning the school dance, and even while defending the school from the myriad of creatures released from R.L. Stine’s books.
Gale has a sister, Lorraine, played by Jillian Bell. Lorraine is plump and neurotic compared to her sister, so of course her character is unbelievably desperate for a relationship. Gale is characterized solely by her need for man love. Her first on screen appearance informs us that she is on her way to a restraining order from the last man she went on a date with, who failed to provide informed disinterest. Lorraine eventually falls in “love” with Stine at the film’s end, because they met and were both lonely, like real life.
Perhaps the subtlest sexual tension is between the film’s only two police officers, Officer Brooks, and Officer Stevens, played by Amanda Lund and Timothy Simons, respectively. Officer Brooks is a confused rookie, new to policing, so she has yet to shoot an unarmed black man. Although she may have to transfer into the city for that. Officer Stevens is schooling her, and when he discovers that she has not seen a particular classic movie, he invites her over for Netflix and chill.
So on to R.L. Stine, the king of mount lonely. Apparently, whatever he writes comes to life, and since he was so lonely, he decided to write the 16-year-old Hannah into his life for companionship. Naturally she is home schooled. It definitely has a sex tourism/creepy, touchy uncle vibe. Not only does this middle aged man consider a teenage girl the best cure for his loneliness, he also considers her disposable. Through a series of unfortunate events, Hannah is sucked back into a book, with all of the other “monsters” that Stine has created. This of course saddens Zach, so Stine writes her to life again and hands her off to Zach, like a child bride to a wealthy suitor for the finest of goats. Stine then burns the binder full of—I mean the new book that he wrote Hannah from, solidifying her place as Zach’s real world property.
Our hero Zach is rewarded with an adorable teenage monster concubine, Stein has Lorraine, Champ got a kiss, Officer Stevens will eventually watch 1/4th of a movie with Officer Brooks, and Zach’s mom, Gale, will at some point give talks to her students about being a rape survivor while dodging questions about why Coach Carr no longer works at the school. The patriarchy definitely lives to fight another day.