*NEW* POWER RANGERS REVIEW *NEW*

Go, go . . . Watch something else.

Another reboot bites the dust. Messy, corny, long at the tooth. How could a movie involving alien superpowers and giant robots be so god damn boring?

A group of high-school students, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.

I grew up with the Power Rangers. The original TV show. I had all the merch; the Red Ranger outfit, the little gloves that made the karate kick sound, the MegaZord, the Green Ranger’s Dragon sword. The list goes on.

To cut a long story short, I’m a fan. Well, was. Of course nearing my 30s, the cynicism was always going to be there. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see my childhood TV show get the Hollywood reboot treatment.

The disorienting shaky handicam opening with bad boy Jason being pursued by the police didn’t build my hopes up.

The pace was a little long at the tooth, to say the least. I understand that the characters are teenagers and the original Power Rangers team never really had a lot of depth to them. Too busy punching putty people to worry about who doesn’t like them at school.

The movies were hardly perfect and got increasingly worse as the franchise turned to Turbo Force, Jungle Rangers and God knows what else.

I could respect that the writers tried to inject some teen angst on these social outcasts BUT it was far too corny and dull for the film. Too serious for its own good.

When things kicked off, my griping was subdued. BUT I didn’t really like the new faces. I did approve of the reshuffling of the colour assignment. A running gag that did draw a cheeky grin. A sly dig at the original show’s writers.

Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things) didn’t do a bad job as Jason. His character was just such an immature airhead that after all the build-up, his swift transformation to leader of the pack was rushed.

Even I was as cynical as Zordon at his sudden change in behaviour.

Naomi Scott played Kimberley well. Her melodrama was a little tame after all the sulking and acting out. Some cheerleader hazing after sharing a “dodgy” picture. Bleurgh.

I actually liked RJ Cyler (Me, Earl and the Dying Girl) as Billy. A complete change in character. The socially awkward nerd with a suggested learning disability. The glue that kept the gang together.

Trini’s (Becky G) sexuality question mark felt lazy and tacked on. It failed to add any depth to her character. Her parents’ OTT behaviour didn’t help matters either.

Ludi Lin was incredibly irritating as Zack. The one performance that surprised me was Elizabeth Banks. I thought the Pitch Perfect princess would ruin the role of Rita Repulsa BUT she nailed it. Her cold stares, her whispery voice. She was actually quite creepy.

It was only in the silly finale when she tried to apply her comedy schtick that I felt it killed a reasonably decent performance. Shame.

Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston was brilliant as Zordon. The Emmy award winning actor was heavily underused in his role. He managed to bring gravitas to a naff grainy PC background.

His frustration and cynicism towards his new found army was a breath of fresh air – “These kids are MY rangers?! They will never be ready”.

Maybe his frustration was genuine after being roped into this movie?

NOT even Bill Hader (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) could work his voiceover magic as Alpha Five. The CGI on the android looked terrible. What’s wrong with props and costumes?

 

Yikes!

The gang’s training montages were watchable and entertaining enough. It just didn’t help that the characters were so bland and irritating.

The special effects weren’t too bad. Especially when they finally got to be Power Rangers! Zordon’s underground lair discovery was also quite impressive.

The only problem with a 124 minute film, the Rangers only morphed in the last 20 minutes (If that!). By the time that horrendous remastered theme song blared through the speakers, my fan boy excitement was already gone.

I was fidgeting in my seat for a good portion of the film. Let alone the little ‘uns.

When it got going, it was watchable and the fun if ridiculous finale delivered more of what I expected from the get go. Action packed punch ups, crazy effects and silly banter. If there was to be another, there’s going to be a lot of work to do.

I had to smile at the blink and you’ll miss it cameos BUT I was left disappointed and wanting. No Bulk and Skull? No putty people? Just some stupid rock things.

This could have been so much fun. Alas, it was not to be.

2.5/5 (Just)

*NEW* TROLLS REVIEW *NEW*

I didn’t find my happy place watching this.

After the Bergens invade Troll Village, Poppy (Anna Kendrick), the happiest Troll ever born, and the curmudgeonly Branch (Justin Timberlake) set off on a journey to rescue her friends.

Curmudgeonly? Word of the day. Had to grab a dictionary for that little doozy. That’s what you get for “borrowing” press releases. Anyway . . .

I had to laugh at the irony that the singer cast in the lead role voices a troll that won’t sing (Well until 70 minutes into the film).

This really is one for the little ‘uns. I couldn’t take the sugary sweet highly saturated animation with its ever-so-corny life messages. An insulin overdose for this diabetic.

It certainly didn’t win me over when a group of glitter-clad trolls were shooting glitter bombs out of each other’s backsides. Too much!

How does Russell Brand still get in movies? He’s like a foul stench that won’t go away. It was a toss up between him and James Corden for most annoying British comic to voice a troll. I could feel my hopes fading fast and that was only in the first 15 minutes!

I actually prayed for them to be eaten by a Bergen.

Director Walt Dohrn made more of an impression in his hilarious and tragically small cameo as the (appropriately titled) Cloud Guy. Give me five! Woah. GEAR SHIFT!

BUT that’s not to say that the film didn’t have its moments. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick to take on the role of Princess Poppy. Belting out some cracking medleys that meshed up Earth, Wind and Fire, Junior Senior and Simon and Garfunkel.

A crazy mix BUT it worked. Even my grumbling subdued for those sequences.

“The world isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows”

JT played the part of the miserable Branch brilliantly. The social outcast locked away in his Bergen proof bunker. Branded a laughing stock while the rest of the clan party, hug and sing (Shudders)

He worked well with Kendrick and the pair made an entertaining duo. Poppy’s mad energy and infectious enthusiasm battling Branch’s endless paranoia and pessimism.

I tried not to pick at the flimsy story line. Some guff about Bergens eating trolls as their source of happiness. A Bergen can never be happy if they have never tasted a troll. Really? They seemed pretty happy hunting them and cooking them.

Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) played the dastardly Chef with aplomb. Determined to hunt down all the trolls to save herself from exile.

Christophe Beck’s soundtrack choices were excellent. I didn’t expect to see the Bergens slumping around to Gorillaz’s Sunshine In A Bag.

Apart from JT’s (Oscar nominated) toe tapping Can’t Stop the Feeling, the original material left little to be desired. It didn’t help that Kendrick’s voice really grated against me while singing ‘Get Up Again’.

The silly little subplot involving King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and his hand maiden Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) was entertaining enough and made up for the lacklustre journey.

I expected a bit more of an adventure. They got to the Bergen kingdom pretty quickly which made me think that they didn’t hide that well in the first place!

Deschanel was funny as the ditsy Bergen desperate to catch the king’s eye. Her attempts to woo him were comical. Her rendition of Lionel Richie’s Hello had me in stitches.

I didn’t even recognize The Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar as the auto-tuning troll Guy Diamond. Maybe that was a good thing.

It was a movie of moments. There were some good ones and some bad ones. It was watchable enough and killed the time BUT memorable?

It had enough to entertain the little ‘uns BUT the bigger kids . . . Well. I’d recommend Sing instead.

BUT I’ll let you be the judges.

2.5/5

*NEW* ZOOTOPIA REVIEW *NEW*

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A fun and clever little family flick.

In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop (Ginnifer Goodwin – Once Upon A Time) and a cynical con artist fox (Jason Bateman – Arrested Development) must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

From the people that brought you Wreck It Ralph and . . . the better seasons of The Simpsons. A star studded and wonderfully animated little affair that cleverly tackles racism and delivers a nice message that anyone can be anything. Awww . . . Yuck.

It was a clever concept how the writers made up this metropolis of mad animals. The animation and detail on the numerous regions within Zootopia was breathtaking to look at. Once we accepted the crazy spiel that animals have evolved and live in peace (NOT to mention dress up in clothes too), the film got down to business.

We followed the young and excitable Judy Hopps (voiced perfectly by Goodwin) as she defied every obstacle and perception to become the first bunny cop of Zootopia. Tackling bullies and stereotypes to achieve her dream. Unaware that her biggest challenge was yet to come.

Breaking free from the overanxious paws of her panic-stricken parents in Bunnyburrow to help change the world and make a difference. It wasn’t long before our heroine’s rose-tinted outlook was crushed by her insensitive boss, the miserable Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) refusing to take her seriously and assigning her parking duty as a meter maid.

The pace did lag in parts and the 108 minute length might have the adults fidgeting, let alone the little ‘uns. However, things picked up once Hopps crossed paths with the sly hustling fox Nick Wylde. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Bateman to take on the role.

It was fun enough watching the fractious relationship between slick Nick and the determined Judy blossom into the inevitable as they unwittingly team up to solve a missing animal case.

The case delivered enough laughs and crazy chases to keep the little ‘uns (and the bigger kids. Yeah, I’m talking to you) entertained. One of the best gags involved a number plate search at the DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles). With Judy pressed for time, it didn’t help knowing that the whole place was . . . run . . . by . . . a . . . load . . . of . . . sloths. Brilliant.

The case wasn’t too bad with the missing creatures in question turning into feral predators without explanation. BUT as always its the journey NOT the destination.

“Haven’t you got a fox ice cream store back in your own district” – I loved how Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush subtly tackled racism within the piece; especially with Nick’s treatment. Never being trusted because of his “people”.

It was perfectly balanced against the fun chases and silly humour as Judy must address some of her own fears and assumptions, branding predators as a “minority” that should be monitored and carrying fox repellent despite telling Nick everyone should be treated the same.

I couldn’t believe the stars that popped up in this; J.K. Simmons, Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk. Even Shakira had a cameo as political activist and media personality Gazelle.

Tommy Chong was hilarious as bohemian hippie Yax. But it was two of the lesser known actors that stole the show for me; Nate Torrence’s (She’s Out of My League) overenthusiastic Clawhauser and Jenny Slate’s (The Secret Life of Pets) bumbling Mayor’s aide Bellwether.

The metatextual references were brilliant; there was a fantastic Breaking Bad reference involving some rams dealing some illegal herbal substances and a Godfather-esque encounter with a Mafioso rodent called Mr. Big that was ripe for the pickings with gags and little nuances.

Disney have worked their magic to deliver another fun family movie but one that will rank with the greats? Not so much.

The pace was a little long and the middle act did stumble with the case solving getting repetitive and predictable. But it was still fun enough and left a nice message to never judge a book by its cover.

3.5/5

*NEW* THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER REVIEW *NEW*

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Two stars for the toonsters.

When a diabolical pirate (Antonio Banderas) above the sea steals the secret Krabby Patty formula, SpongeBob and his nemesis Plankton must team up in order to get it back.

Yeah, I know. How old are you?! Grow up! After watching this shambolic sequel, I think I will.

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I loved Spongebob Squarepants when it first came out in 1999 (That’s right 17 years ago!). It was random, funny and utterly bonkers. I even saw the movie when I was 15. I always loved the hidden innuendos and stupid gags and still watch the film every once in a while. Hell, I still quote it to my work colleagues (All surprisingly secret SS fans. Wait, hang on. Best not make that reference).

When I heard a sequel was in the pipeline, the silly teen nerd in me giggled like our spongey hero BUT once the opening sequence began with Banderas prancing around Sinbad style (with the mad energy that voiced the feisty feline Puss in Boots), I knew I was in deep trouble.

This really was one for the little ‘uns. The innuendos GONE. The humour silly and stupid. Banderas did his best BUT he was annoying. Narrating the dull and lifeless plot to the best of his ability. BUT thankfully he was nowhere near as irritating as the poorly CGI’d seagulls.

Normally I’m a fan of Alan Carr BUT his voice grated against me as the lead seagull. Apparently we couldn’t get anybody better to voice the rest of the lot. Or they read the script and scarpered. Instead we had YouTube sensations (Apparently) Joe Suggs/Thatcher Joe, Caspar Lee and X Factor/TV presenter Stacey Solomon. Greeeatttttt.

We had to endure the same old guff as Plankton makes his umpteenth attempt on stealing the Krabby Patty formula. However, this time the formula is successfully stolen. BUT NOT by the minuscule megalomaniac. With the town going crazy and looking for someone to flog, SpongeBob helps Plankton prove his innocence. Leading to a dreadfully mediocre movie.

The pace drudged along and took too long to get going. The time travel machine subplot was an extended segment that delivered more misses than hits. SpongeBob and Plankton’s partnership should have been better than it was and left us Patrick-lite. The songs didn’t help either. The bland Pharrell Williams backing track and that TEAM song was just plain cringe.

At least the first one had Goofie Gober Rock (I’m a Goofie Gober . . . ROCK!)

The post-apocalyptic Mad Max future sequence was a good touch; “Welcome to the apocalypse, Squidward. I hope you like leather”.

Some of the old gags worked. BUT the underwhelming supporting cast didn’t help lift things. With the original movie, we had Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development), Scarlett Johansson (Avengers), Alec Baldwin (BT adverts. I’m kidding!). Hell, it even had the Hoff!

It didn’t help that the whole thing got ridiculously far-fetched. Out of desperation if anything else! I know. How can you say far-fetched? It’s a talking sponge causing havoc underwater. The film had David Hasselhoff acting as a Knight Rider speed boat hybrid that jettisoned our dim-witted duo back to Bikini Bottom with his chest (Told you I watched it!)

Instead we had Matt Berry (The IT Crowd) delivering his vocal gravitas to an interstellar galaxy protecting dolphin overlord. You read that, right?

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Shooting lasers out of his blowhole! Donning a cape and floating in the air with toilet roll hanging off his dorsal fin. I really thought I was trippin’ on acid BUT after that rather odd segment (To say the least), I found myself fidgeting and looking at my watch.

I wanted more of Karen (Jill Talley). Plankton’s computer wife. She was funny. “My hero. You obviously want something or else you wouldn’t be freeing me”.

The lack of double entendres was extremely disappointing BUT the silly puns had their moments: “You’ll be safe in this . . . safe”, “Is he an enemy or plankton?” BUT it just wasn’t enough. There were laughs to be had in the mental finale with our loveable gang bulked up to the max with superpowers BUT it was a case of too, little too late.

I was ready to leave the screen before the singing seagulls and Antonio Banderas could destroy the theme song. And the auto-tuning cameo from Berry was bloody dreadful.

Did you think that went well? This was definitely for the sprogs. I can safely say that I’ve moved on from SpongeBob.

2/5

*NEW* THE BFG REVIEW *NEW*

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The BIG FLOPPIN’ MESS

On paper, the dream of Roald Dahl’s works and Steven Spielberg’s direction should have spelled perfection BUT despite Rylance’s brilliant performance, there was something missing.

A girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) encounters the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kind-hearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.

Definitely one for the little ‘uns. It has been a long time since I read The BFG. I loved Dahl’s books as a child and genuinely enjoyed the film adaptations. Some I still watch as guilty pleasures BUT this won’t be one of them.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was exactly how I remembered. The animation and cinematography (from regular Spielberg stalwart Janusz Kaminski) were fantastic. The BFG’s introduction was lifted straight from the book. His eyes twinkling in the dark alleys. The giant hand clambering through the curtains. The sweeping shots across the beautiful English countryside.

It was delightfully easy going. Barnhill carried the role as well as she could. It’s an incredibly difficult task for a child actor to get the balance right. Whether it was the script or her performance BUT there were moments where the poor girl just got on my nerves. BUT it was still a commendable debut for the little lass.

After his Oscar winning turn in Bridge of Spies, Mark Rylance reunited with Spielberg yet again. The animation and effects were impeccable; mixing live animation with Rylance’s facial expressions. His delivery really made all of Dahl’s insanely ridiculous jargon almost believable. He really was the BFG. Perfect.

However, the main issue was the pace. It went on far too long. This would have been much better if it was reduced by a good 30 minutes. If anything, the meandering pace gave me time to pick at how nothingy the story of the BFG really was. Apart from catching dreams and eating whizpoppers (a horrible looking cucumber), there wasn’t really much going on.

What was originally a beautiful scene with the BFG and Sophie chasing after the pixie like dreams flying around the trees, I found myself nodding off. I hate to blame the twinkly lullaby score of John Williams. The maestro providing yet another wonderful score. It just didn’t grab me. The CGI and effects were marvellous BUT it wasn’t enough.

NOT even the giants made enough of an impression for me. Considering the talented supporting cast voicing the eclectic bunch of fantastically designed beasts, the only one that made a memorable impression was Flight of the Conchord’s Jermaine Clement as Fleshlumpeater. The only giant with any depth or dialogue.

I didn’t even realise until the closing credits that Bill Hader (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) was voicing Bloodbottler! I wanted more of them. There were opportunities for the BFG to overcome the years of bullying. I know it was only a kids’ films BUT I couldn’t help but ask endless questions; Why did the giants hate rain so much? (Especially when the BFG wasn’t fazed at all). Why catch dreams and give them to people while they sleep?

The giants weren’t really as intimidating as I’d hoped. If anything, they were irritating. Despite a wonderfully animated sequence with the dimwitted dirt dwellers throwing the BFG on a digger and Sophie in a battered car and racing them around the hill, they didn’t do much at all.

It was the meeting with the Queen that made me feel my age. For the first time, I actually felt uncomfortable watching a children’s film. I always enjoy family films because they always have something for everyone. BUT this time, it really was just for the sprogs.

Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) was brilliant as Her Majesty. It’s just a shame she was playing her in this. Rafe Spall and Rebecca Hall were completely wasted (and unnecessary in their roles). And once everybody was guzzling frobscottle (a strange fizzy drink with bubbles that float down) and farting green smoke including the bloomin’ Corgis, I knew I was getting too old for this.

I know I’m heading towards my thirties and I’ve become an older and more cynical movie goer BUT I can still watch The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Wilder version, of course. RIP) as guilty pleasures. BUT the meandering pace and silly little gags just didn’t deliver. The giants were barely used and weren’t really as much of a threat as they could have been.

It was watchable guff BUT I’m afraid to say that Spielberg’s dry spell continues. The little ‘uns will love it BUT the older Dahl fans will be disappointed.

2.5/5

*NEW* THE JUNGLE BOOK REVIEW *NEW*

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Ooh-bee-do, oh-bee-do I wouldn’t see this if I were you-ooooo.

Okay, it wasn’t as bad as that feeble pun. BUT now I have your attention. Disney take a trip back to the jungle with mixed results.

After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and free spirited bear, Baloo (Bill Murray).

I was hardly surprised when I heard that Disney were going to reboot the classics. A sign of the times that even the best were running out of ideas. However, I really enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s lavish adaptation of Cinderella (What?). If the rest of the classics could deliver the same standard then my doubts would happily be washed away.

BUT not even this perfectly cast and visually stunning little reboot could take on the king of the jungle that was the original. It was certainly watchable and (at times) even enjoyable BUT something somewhere along the line was missing.

The rapid and incredibly disorienting opening didn’t get things going for me as Sethi jumped from one badly CGI’d tree to another. Desperately praying for the sequence to stop.

Sethi delivered an impressive debut and captured Mowgli perfectly. He couldn’t look any more like his Disney counterpart if he tried. His whining and insufferable commentary did grate against me in parts BUT that always did with the original.

I liked how writer Justin Marks shook up the story structure. It was a breath of fresh air. NOT all of it worked BUT a change nonetheless. A lot more time was spent with Mowgli and the wolf pack. It gave more depth and allowed a better connection between Mowgli and his “mother” Raksha (Lupita Nyong-o/Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

BUT maybe a little too much time was spent on that dynamic. Things perked up when the feral feline Sher Khan appeared. I was on the fence with Elba’s initial introduction BUT he killed it by the fiery finale. His gravelly undertones bringing the sinister CGI monster to life.

The animation and detail on the animals were superb. The jungle was captured in all its colourful glory. The watering hole sequence was a sight to behold.

The rest of the story pretty much followed along the same lines as the classic. It’s easy for me to make comparisons between Disney movies when I never read the original source material from Rudyard Kipling.

Kingsley was everything I expected. A perfect Baghera. He wasn’t in it enough. Scarlett Johansson nailed Kaar. Her strangely alluring and seductive voice doing justice to the role. She even managed to keep the “Trust in Me” rift. Didn’t quite go into the song which was a shame.

It was always going to be a tough act to follow the iconic Phil Harris. The voice that heralded several Disney favourites; O’Malley the alley cat, Little John and (of course) Baloo the bear. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Bill Murray to give it a crack. He was hilarious. Even if his grumbling may have reminded me of another another animated favourite. A certain fur-bag that loved lasagna.

The pace did test in times and the whole thing was a little too cheesy for my liking. BUT what did I expect from a family film? And even more so, a Disney one? As much as I got a little smile out of hearing Murray sing ‘Bare Necessities’, it almost didn’t fit in with the tone of the film.

I couldn’t believe that Christopher Walken was voicing the King-Kong sized King Louie. The monkey mafioso angle was a different touch. His singing was a little hooo-oooo-ooooorrendous. BUT fair play to the chap for giving it a go.

It was easygoing fun BUT for every little change, I felt a little piece of the charm that made the original such a classic melt away. There were no Beatle-esque vultures. No elephant soldier marches. Just a load of pretentious guff about the elephants being the Gods of the jungle. Really?

The man village angle barely scraped the surface. If anything, it wasn’t needed. It was only brought into the mix for “the red flower”. Sher Khan’s real agenda. The power to make fire. It certainly delivered a strong environmental message about the damage of wildfires and the woes of man on nature BUT it just wasn’t enough.

To be honest, I had the same gripes with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake. When I have little sprogs of my own, I wouldn’t want them to watch the Michael Jacko/Johnny Depp reboot, I’d grab the Gene Wilder classic any day of the week. If you asked me the same question about the Jungle Book, I’d still be reaching for that animated 1967 classic.

Don’t get me wrong. It killed the time. There was fun to be had and you will certainly keep the little ‘uns at bay. Depending on big a Disney fan you are will probably determine how much you’ll love this.

BUT for a me, it’s a 3/5

*NEW* GOOSEBUMPS REVIEW *NEW*

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Black is back!

Corny, frantic BUT highly watchable.

A teenager (Dylan Minnette – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) teams up with the daughter (Odeya Rush – The Giver) of young adult horror author R. L. Stine (Jack Black – School of Rock) after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

The opening 20 minutes was easy going enough as Minnette’s Zach moved to a new town and (even worse) a new school. And if that wasn’t bad enough. His own mother (Amy Ryan – Birdman) is the new vice principal! I liked the dynamic between Ryan and Minnette. It was a little disappointing to see that thrown out of the window for a cheesy little romance subplot between Zach and the mysterious girl next door Hannah (Rush).

Don’t get me wrong, the pair had good chemistry BUT it was all a little too schmaltzy for my liking. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before the obsessive Stine (Black) made his introduction. Welcome back, Mr Black. As soon as the big man kept randomly popping up at windows and fences, threatening Zach at every opportunity to stay away from Hannah, I was entertained.

It was a different side to Black. More subdued and obnoxious. Not quite as loud or in your face. BUT still on scene stealing form. He has been missed. And with Kung Fu Panda 3 fighting its way at the box office, we will be spoiled.

“If there’s danger, I will run the other way”. Ryan Lee (Super 8) was brilliant as social misfit Champ.

For fans of the real Goosebump books, all the little references were there. The whole magic spiel was a different take. Every creation Stine ever wrote coming to life. All the silly creatures that used to frighten you as a little ‘un (and may still do) were all there.

Slappy the dummy was the one that always freaked me out. And lo and behold, guess who made a special appearance? Black provides his sinister voice-over skills to bring the terrifying toy to life. Slappy’s movie makeover wasn’t quite as spine-tingling as his TV series counterpart. BUT I’ll let you be the judge.

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Shudder. Moving on . . .

The special effects were actually quite good. The 3D gimmick wasn’t missed so save your pennies. I couldn’t really pick any moments that would have better with it. The effects weren’t too cartoony BUT this is a kid’s film, let’s not forget. Can’t creep em out too much now. That’s not to say there weren’t a few jumpy bits that might have got the best of yours truly (What?).

The adorable BUT highly violent garden gnomes suggested a darker undertone and gave me that old Gremlins nostalgia as the gang fought wave after wave of them in the kitchen.

It was silly, a little cheesy BUT good fun as our dysfunctional heroes try to get every creature back in their paperback prisons. The endless statistics that Black spewed up about Stine’s career were all true. Believe me, I checked. Selling more novels than Stephen King?! A passing cameo delivering the perfect punch line.

BUT that’s not to say it was perfect. Just like Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paper Towns, Halston Sage was type cast (yet again) as another high school damsel in distress. Anyone could have played her and, by the end, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

Amy Ryan was cast aside and reduced to nothing more than a naff running joke with her character avoiding the awkward advances of Ken Marino’s (We’re The Millers) high school coach. Unfunny and a real waste of another actress.

My main issue however, was despite this being a mad little movie; it felt rushed. Not enough of Stine’s ghastly ghouls were brought into the mix. Too many of them were quickly thrown in at the last minute that you couldn’t tell what was what.

It just seemed to push for a frantic finale after all that build up. Veep’s Timothy Simons was heavily underused as dimwitted Officer Stevens. More gags could have made with the guy. He had me in stitches in the two scenes he was lucky to feature in.

BUT grumbling aside, coming from a GB fan, this was a silly little blast from the past. It wasn’t perfect (and didn’t quite top the iconic TV series that ruined my childhood) BUT I could think of worst things to kill the time with the little ‘uns.

3/5 (Just)