Monday, November 30, 2020

We're not here for bookclub.

Every year, as a teacher, you're guaranteed to get that kid. The one that's only happy when everyone else is utterly miserable. And last year, that student was a young lady named...well, let's call her Joanna. Joanna hated everything about school. Every adult. Every kid. Every subject. No lie, for someone who was weeks out of elementary school, this young lady was terrifying.

But before she got kicked out for coming to school high (at age twelve), not coming to school at all, telling most adults exactly where they could go (and what they could do to themselves when they arrived), and basically trying to fight everyone, I decided we were going to be friends. Best friends. Our bond? It was going to be over books. Good books. And whatever book was her favorite?

I was going to read it. IMMEDIATELY. And we'd have our own little book club. 


This is something that I did.

Somehow, in my almost forty-something years on the planet, fifteen as a teacher, thirty-five plus as a reader, and all of them as a horror-loving weirdo, I had never read anything by R.L Stine. Welp, turned out ol' Joanna was a fan of the Goosebumps series, and with 235 books to choose from, she recommended/demanded I start at the beginning with Welcome to Dead House. And, to my absolute bewilderment, it was actually pretty scary. Not Joanna during standardized testing scary, but close. *shudder*

For the Halloween season, me and the other residents of the fallout shelter didn't watch all that many scary flicks, but we did manage to crank up (and out) 2015's Goosebumps flick and it's moderately disappointing follow-up, 2018's Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. Though my kids were not super into the idea of watching these spine-tinglers initially, by the end of the double-feature (spread out over weeks, because of course it was) they'd been converted into fans of all things R.L. Stine. So when I broke their fragile, little hearts with the news that there would not be a third film, I figured the fact that there are literally hundreds of books they could choose from would ease their pain. It did not. You have to read books, with your eyes and your brain, and even my own kids are like, nah, we're good.
You guys might now the two on the right, but I didn't recognize them from jack...Black.

Speaking of being good, the first flick is surprisingly that, where two goofball boys open mysteriously locked books, inadvertently unleashing all of R.L. Stine's monsters on a small, picturesque town. Led by a charming cast and a delightfully-miserable Jack Black (as R.L. Stine), this one is super family-friendly and just creepy enough to watch on a cool, October night. The ending is a little...odd, but a good time regardless.

Part two loses points right off the bat, as almost none of the original cast return and Black sees his screen-time drastically severed. The new kids aren't terrible (the chubby kid from It is solid), but it's definitely a downgrade, and with the story being, well, a carbon copy of the first one, the thrill ain't exactly gone, but it's close. Good thing Slappy (the murderous ventriloquist du---, puppet) provided some pretty ridiculous moments to put some flavor crystals on what were essentially microwaved leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, here are a couple of Yays and Boos that I've been sitting on since Halloween. The only thing scarier than a possessed puppet, is the thought of opening my personal computer, after seven and half hours of *deep breath* Zooming. Hence why Two Dollar Cinema is also becoming Two Posts a, cinema.

Kids' movie or not, not a fan of that clown...

  • Wow, his aunt (the generally awesome Jillian Bell) somehow made a Yankee hat even lamer. Impressive, right?
  • Jonah from Veep (that's what it says on his license now, I'm sure of it) shows up for a glorious 90 seconds as an inept _____. (he's a cop, but you could pretty much assume that whatever his job is, he sucks at it)
  • The zamboni getaway was slow. Kind of reminded me of that steamroller gag in the first Austin Powers.
  • Ken Marino in anything is great. Ken Marino playing a horny gym teacher in a kid's movie? Greater.
  • Slappy, who likely terrified my children in their sleep, (as voiced by Black) was awesome. He reminded me of a much more aggressive Lil' Penny, just replace dope shoes with creepy cackle.
  • In the first one, it's an all-out gnome battle. In the sequel, they take on a horde of gummi bears. Either way, kids fighting infinite tiny whatevers? Oh, that's the right kind of ridiculous.
  • Speaking of whatevers, but minus the tiny, can we put our hands together for the giant praying mantis in part one, and the massive balloon spider in part two? Sure the CGI of each might be second-tier, but the designs are top-shelf.
  • Of course Ken Jeong shows up in the inferior sequel, right? No surprise there. But what it really astonishing? He's actually kind of hilarious. He plays this neighbor dude who's a super-fan of Halloween, and somehow, I didn't hate him.
  • And finally, silly as these films are, it was nice to watch something with my family that no one in the house had seen before. Sure, my wife and son fell asleep during each flick, but Violet and I knocked 'em both out in the first try. She's pretty much a smaller, cooler version of myself, except she's infinitely more sarcastic than I am. Oh God, imagine? Talk about a little monster...
My kids almost died when Slappy was playing Rocket League.
  • First flick's nerdy friend is pretty bad. I mean, the kid does a good job,
  • Slappy, the little doll-thing in the middle, does a lot of driving in the first one. But I'm not, exactly.
  • Unless, of course, he uses his magical powers, you know, the powers that allow him to pull a young boy's pants down repeatedly.
  • Oh, and speaking of the (likely-traumatized) kid without the pants, he's the absolute worst character in this series. Why are bullies always written so poorly. I know we've got no time for his backstory, but holy moly, they're always so over-the-top ridiculous. And the only thing worse than being the Bully? Being the Bully's sidekicks. Those dudes' screentime generally peaks at snickering and/or holding the protagonists arms down. Wait, they also get to help up Capt. A-hole when he eventually gets his comeuppance, so there's that.
  • Mom in part two sucks pretty hard. She comes around a bit...but, yeah. Not great.
  • Jack Black is in the second one for an odd amount of time. Really. He shows up, like, fifty minutes in, and he's clearly the best part. Not sure if he was just busy...or what was going on.
  • And finally, the ending of the first one. Main Guy falls in love with Stine's daughter, but it turns out, for...supernatural reasons...they can't be together. Or they couldn't until dad emphatically and purposely makes it so. Uh, you'd assume Stine was once a high-school kid, right? Uh....this is awkward. Like, thanks Mr. Stine, for making sure I can still bone your daughter. Good lookin' out.

When I was in sixth grade (900 years ago), I too was all about horror garbage, but I was reading stuff like It, Misery and Pet Sematary and watching Jason butcher post-coital teens (and pausing the best parts like a true delinquent), instead of reading age-appropriate stuff like Goosebumps. At least I turned out normal. *crickets*

Anyway, my kids have a long way to go until they experience the heavier stuff, as my wife is really hesitant to open them up to such twisted, um, content. Meaning? I'm going to have to do it on the sly, which is really weird and uncomfortable (my older brothers showed me the way), to say the least.

If only I knew a troubled, older child, who was already super corrupted and could guide my children into the ways of the wicked. Hahaha, just kidding. 

I know hundreds of them. Last year, there was one Joanna. But the year before that? I can't even tell you the number without getting...

you know...

chicken skin?


  1. You are such an awesome teacher to reach out to that kid like that, seriously. As for the movies, I haven't seen either yet! But I've heard many a time the first one is actually really good so I need to get that on my list pronto.

    1. Hahaha...I wish I was an awesome teacher. Hell, at this rate, I wish I was a regular teacher (Zoom school sucks so much). I really did try to reach out to this girl, but she wasn't having it. I did get to read a Goosebumps book, so there's that, I guess.

      The first one is the right level of charming and family-related goofiness. The second, not as much.