In this newest family-friendly, light-hearted spook flick, “Goosebumps,” beloved children’s author R.L. Stine, the genius behind some 62 Goosebumps novels (more than 350-million copies sold), comes to life through actor/comedian Jack Black. His fictitious portrayal of the real-life Stine offers some funny moments, as he attempts to hide a secret in his spooky suburban home. The new kid, high school senior Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) does what the new kid always does; sneaks into the Stine’s home to see what’s going on. As the author’s locked manuscripts accidentally come to life, the town is terrorized by 3D ghosts, creatures, even aliens with freezer guns. Zach’s mother, played by “The Office’s” Amy Ryan offers some fresh dialog and interpretation of a rote screenplay role. Danny Elfman’s (“Nightmare Before Christmas”) scores are always a winner, and no doubt added to the significant $58-mil budget. Stine’s daughter, played Odeya Rush, and Zach’s new friend, the funny 19-year-old Ryan Lee, ground the film, which may not be Black’s finest effort. The 3D creatures and chaos have been mostly seen before in what is essentially “Gremlins” meets “Jumanji.” The film may lack the real goosebump-producing potential that you seek during this Halloween season, but it’s a film everyone, even younger kids can enjoy.
The Intern ***
In “The Intern,” the ageless Robert De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a widower looking for a little excitement in life. When he answers the call for “senior interns” from Fit, a hip start-up e-commerce fashion business in Brooklyn, New York, he finds purpose and offers corporate wisdom only those over 70 can. As a film “The Intern” meanders along introducing likeable, flawed characters, and is a pleasant little romantic comedy. Co-star Anne Hathaway plays Jules Ostin, the frantic, dedicated, workaholic founder of Fit who tries to balance work-life with home-life. She rides a bicycle through the office from meeting to meeting, and is initially against this forced internship into which her board of directors pressures her. “The Intern” is the kind of movie you’d enjoy on a rainy afternoon when playing hooky from life, as an uncomplicated, feel-good escape. Where it falters is in the odd casting of Anders Holm (“Workaholics”) as Matt Ostin, Hathaway’s stay-at-home husband and caregiver to the couple’s young daughter. Oddly, Holm’s “Workaholic” co-star, Adam DeVine plays a prominent role as a fellow Intern. DeVine and intern Zach Pearlman offer a few laughs and De Niro plays against type, as the charming, patient, and loveable intern/father-figure Hathaway finds she needs.
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What do those stars mean?
* Really, really, really bad. Don’t bother.
** Pretty bad, with one or more redeeming scenes.
*** Pretty good, but maybe not great, worth seeing for most
**** Really great, a winning combination of story, casting, and directing
***** The rarest gem, an all-around perfect motion picture