- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jack Black became legendary author R.L. Stine last year in a monstrously enjoyable movie for the entire family.

Those who missed the classic creature-loaded epic can now appreciate the director Rob Letterman’s effort in the Blu-ray release of Goosebumps (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $38.99, rated PG, 103 minutes).

Tapping into the vibe of Mr. Stine’s famed children’s horror-book series, the story explores a mother and son — Zach and Gale Cooper (Amy Ryan and Dylan Minnette) — still grieving the loss of a loved one but starting a new life in Madison, Delaware.

When Zach gets a bit too nosy trying to help a next-door neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush), the daughter of the overbearing Mr. Stine, it takes very little time to understand the power of the printed word.

Specifically, he and new friend Champ (Ryan Lee), learn that opening one of Mr. Stine’s original transcripts can unleash a world of supernatural hurt on the small town.

The movie co-stars a heavy dose of Mr. Stine’s imaginative characters eventually released by the wily and egotistical ventriloquist dummy Slappy (voiced by Mr. Black).

The digital transfer allows fans to appreciate such legends as an Abominable Snowman (from the book “The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena”); a multistory praying mantis (“A Shocker on Shock Street”); an army of ceramic lawn gnomes (“Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes”); and plenty of zombies (“Zombie Halloween”) brought to life though practical and computer-effects magic.

Especially impressive was a ravenous werewolf (from the book “The Werewolf of Fever Swamp”) chasing the gang in a supermarket.

Families do not need to be fans of the R.L. Stine book series to appreciate the plot, which excels at delivering not-too-scary moments and highlighting teamwork and the importance of love and family.

Now, before the movie navigation menu even loads, our buddy Slappy shows up and beckons fans to keep watching past the main feature’s end to get to plenty of extras including one starring, no surprise, Slappy.

For roughly five minutes after the movie concludes, viewers learn about the origin of Mr. Stine’s favorite character through Slappy’s appearances in the books (starring in the 1993 ” Night of the Living Dummy”) and the production work involved to bring him to life on screen.

More extras include an alternate opening (dunderheaded movers learn about Mr. Stine’s magical books), six deleted scenes and different ending of the movie that, by the way, was much more of a satisfying conclusion for me.

Better yet, learn how to survive a Goosebumps monster encounter with the tips from Mr. Minnette and Mr. Lee. The oddest assist is when stopping the famed haunted car (from the book “The Haunted Car”) and requires adding water to the gas tank to produce sputtering results. Although, obvious warnings are explained (use only with haunted vehicles), I am not sure I want tweens knowing this.

I also appreciated an almost 10-minute lesson on creating monsters explained by make-up effects experts Steve Prouty and Fionagh Cush who applied their craft to over 50 performers in the film.

They offer tips for youngsters to make realistic blood and how to turn the average human into a mummy by using basic crafts and household supplies.

However, talk about a blown opportunity, it might have been smart to have included a digital version or at least a code to freely download one of the over 60 Goosebumps books to a favorite mobile device.

It never hurts to remind kids that reading is not only fun but also many movies are actually based on great book series.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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