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Goosebumps 2 (2018)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 1/15/2019

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/18/2019

The rule for sequels has been in place for decades and it's pretty simple -- if you can't make it better, make it bigger. Just look at movies like Dawn of the Dead (1979), The Road Warrior, and even Pitch Perfect 2 -- more actors, more locations, more action. Does this approach work? Sometimes. The second film may not have the emotion or intimacy of its predecessor, but something must be said for spectacle. Now, what about movies which take the opposite approach? That list is much smaller. Goosebumps 2 assumes this take on a sequel and the result is that rare sequel which one-ups the first film.

Goosebumps 2 is set in the small town of Wardenclyffe, which became famous due to the fact that Nikola Tesla did experiments there. (This fictional town is a stand-in for the real Shoreham, New York.) Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is obsessed with Tesla and is building a model of the scientist's famous tower for his science project. However, Sonny must also contend with his mother, Kathy (Wendy McLendon-Covey), and her tight schedule and his sister, Sarah (Madison Iseman), who is brooding over her college essay. The good news is that Sonny's best friend, Sam (Caleel Harris), is going to be staying with the family while his parents are out of town. The two have a salvage service called "Junk Brothers", and Sam is delighted when they get their first call. They find an old, abandoned house, which is filled with odd junk. Much to their surprise, they discover a trunk in a hidden corridor, which contains a book and a ventriloquist's dummy named Slappy (voiced by Mick Wingert). It's not long before Slappy has come to life and is demonstrating his powers to the boys. But, Slappy has a sinister plan -- He wants to rule Halloween and will do so by bringing all of the Halloween decorations to life. Can Sonny, Sam, and Sarah stop him?

Not unlike 2015's Goosebumps, it takes a while for Goosebumps 2 to get going. The movie takes its time in setting up the character, allowing us to get to know their personalities. It's at this point that I'd like to stop the review and say kudos to Goosebumps 2 for presenting us with likeable main characters. So many modern films trot out jerks or snobs and then ask us to care for them when things get rough. But, Sonny, Sam, and Sarah are pretty good kids (even thought Sarah skews towards stereotypical bratty teenaged girl) and it's easy for us to want to go on this journey with them. OK, as I was saying, the movie introduces the characters, the town, and the importance of Tesla's tower. The movie also throws us a curveball by having Slappy appear to be nice when the boys first find him. He helps them with a bully and shows them some fun tricks. Isn't this the same doll which was trying to destroy the world when we last saw him?

However, once Slappy puts his nefarious plan into action, the movie shifts into high gear. The movie's conceit is a ingenious in its simplicity -- So many people go overboard with decorating their front yards for Halloween (as represented by Ken Jeong's character in the film). What if those decorations came to life? While the first movie offered various monsters from the Goosebumps books series, Goosebumps 2 brings us a variety of more familiar creatures, such as ghosts, zombies, and spiders. The scene in which the creatures come to life is very well done, most notably the monsters which grow out of Halloween masks. I'm going to stop the review again to state that some of these scenes really push the limit of the PG rating. Yes, Goosebumps 2 is aimed at kids, and there's no blood or gore or real violence, but some of the monsters here are decidedly creepy and I know that if I were a pre-adolescent and saw this, I would never go near a Halloween mask again. And don't get me started on how creative, yet creepy the spider is.

In the end, Goosebumps 2 is a fairly simple and straight-forward movie, and this is what makes it work. While I enjoyed the first film for what it was, the story there was pretty convoluted. Despite some major plotholes in the first act (How did Slappy get to Wardenclyffe?), things are very streamlined here and, again, the idea of Halloween decorations coming to life is a great one. I can't believe that Jack Black opted to be in The House With a Clock in its Walls, allowing him time to only do a brief cameo here. (Although, he does have a great joke at the expense of It.) The surprisingly creepy monsters aside, Goosebumps 2 is a fun family film and a nice love letter to Halloween.

Goosebumps 2 sort of acts like the audience is supposed to be familiar with Nikola Tesla on 4K UHD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 70 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The team behind the film made some wise decisions concerning the colors of the monsters, keeping everything from being black or white. The depth works quite well and the level of detail is very impressive. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix really comes to life in the second half of the film, when the monsters attack. We are treated to detailed stereo and surround effects, which place us squarely in the middle of the action. The subwoofer could have been stronger, but it does emphasize the movements of the larger creatures.

The extra features for Goosebumps 2 are found on the Blu-ray Disc which is included here. We start with three DELETED SCENES which run about 2 minutes. This is followed by a 3 minute GAG REEL. "Thrills & Chills - The Making of Goosebumps 2" (10 minutes) takes us behind the scenes to see how the idea for a sequel was approached and how specific moments were created. "Meet the Monsters" (9 minutes) examines the design and creation of the various creatures seen in the film. "Science with Slappy" (11 minutes) is a five-part segment in which the dummy demonstrates some specific scientific ideas through experiments. "Slappy-Oke Sings Alongs" (4 minutes) has the dummy walking us through three songs. "Junk Brothers - Call Now!" (1 minute) is fake commercial for Sonny and Sam's company. "Slappy's Audition" (2 minutes) is exactly what it sounds like.

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long