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Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween knows what its target demographic wants but also resonates with adult audiences, thanks to the zippy plot and across-the-board excellent performances from the totally game cast.
Beyond some network television-quality production values, the sequel to the 2015 film is completely satisfactory family entertainment. It's hard to imagine anyone putting "Goosebumps 2" on their end-of-year worst movie list. And not just because it's hard to imagine anyone even remembering this film beyond next Tuesday.
The Halloween monster mash iconography is incredibly strong and the cast is excellent, but Goosebumps 2 is in far too much of a hurry – and perhaps too eager to be widely accessible – to be actually scary or wholly effective.
The creativity may be lacking in other areas, but “Goosebumps 2” steps up the creature feature quotient with style and smarts.
As directed by Ari Sendal (“The Duff”), the film keeps its low-key, harmless energy at a steady simmer. Every once in a while a joke is funnier than you might expect, or a monster looks surprisingly spooky, but overall this is a safe, by the numbers Halloween family film.
The real magic of the movie comes in its echoes of the first — namely, Black’s performance as the Goosebumps mastermind.
Though Sandel relies less on exasperating, rubbery digital effects than Rob Letterman, the DreamWorks Animation vet who helmed the original, his direction of the monsters and mayhem is never more than workmanlike, racing joylessly through a shaky plot that barely holds attention.
Although it provides a fair number of mild scares and laughs, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween feels more like a kiddie film than did the original.
The way a movie like “Goosebumps 2” works, even a weary adult will be grateful, by the time it finally kicks in, for all the brainless whirling distraction. I almost wrote fun, but that would be pushing it. To achieve that F-word, the film would have to ground its amusing effects in a story that was less skittery yet leaden.
It’s a completely new crew, on both sides of the camera, dispensing warmed-over chills.

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