C'mon, Hollywood: Please don't ruin our 90's nostalgia!
I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but I'm a nostalgic bastard. If it came out before the harsh realities of life set in and I was just another happy lad (the 90's), I probably remember and look back on it fondly. Hollywood, however, has a knack for having its way with those memories. I can't imagine, for example, growing up with STAR WARS and standing in line waiting to relive that experience only to witness STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE. If anything, my mother showed me all three Indiana Jones movies as a kid, so watching INDIANA JONES AND THE CGI PRAIRIE DOGS definitely left me with that empty sadness, but Hollywood hasn't really had an opportunity to "rape my childhood" as so many like to put it. Until now, that is.
CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, slated for a 2017 release, has some pretty legitimate voice talent including Kevin Hart, Ed Helms and Nick Kroll with director Rob Letterman (MONSTERS VS ALIENS, SHARK TALE) and writer Nicholas Stoller (YES MAN, THE MUPPETS) behind the project. With GOOSEBUMPS, we have Darren Lemke, Carl Ellsworth, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski penning the script and director Rob Letterman, again, with Jack Black in one of the main roles. After looking at the past work of these filmmakers, I'm not feeling too confident in all this.
Sure, CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS isn't the most mature children's book, but it's silly, good-hearted fun. With homages to comic books, superheroes and tacky gimmicks (flip-o-rama, anyone?) it's one of those books that makes you feel like a kid again in the best way possible. Had it not been taken yet, I personally think the quick, manic humor of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, THE LEGO MOVIE) would have worked perfectly with the material. While I'm not a big fan of the movies Letterman and Stoller have worked on in the past, they have ten books (and multiple spin-offs) worth of stories, villains and jokes of the whitey-tightey-wearing-crusader to choose from.
With GOOSEBUMPS, I'm a little more apprehensive. First and foremost, GOOSEBUMPS is supposed to be scary and with Jack Black front and center, that's gonna make it a little harder to pull off (especially considering the director and Black's last collaboration was GULLIVER'S TRAVELS). It also seems like they're passing up a lot of great opportunities with the story. An author's characters "literally leap off the page" leaves behind the chance to revisit classics like THE HAUNTED MASK or NIGHT OF THE LIVING DUMMY or SAY CHEESE AND DIE! (I know these titles sound ridiculous, but they're great). Something I thought could be incredible would be to make GOOSEBUMPS an anthology film. Think CREEPSHOW, but for younger audiences whose A.D.D. would not be a problem thanks to three or four self contained movies in one. There are four writers for this, so perhaps that's what they're planning on doing? Eh? Well, there's always the chance of ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? THE MOVIE, I suppose.
Now, I'm not going to try to argue that CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS and GOOSEBUMPS are on the same level of STAR WARS, but here's the thing. When I saw movies or read books as a kid, I enjoyed things that didn't insult my intelligence. Being able to be entertained by something that was a little more intense than I was used to or seeing something that my parents would laugh at but I wouldn't necessarily get made me feel a little more like an adult. Kid's movies that don't always feel that way (MONSTER HOUSE, SUPER 8, GREMLINS) are great and kids today deserve quality entertainment like that, too. Also, if these filmmakers are associating themselves with a successful name or brand from the past, they should at least try to be respectful to the original material (as silly as it may be). While these films will be marketed to a younger demographic, they were most popular back in the 90's so shouldn't that generation be taken into consideration, too? Can we get jokes that only adults would understand or a few scares that genuinely frighten everyone in the audience?
Something or another made these stories important back in the day and, at least in my case, it's been almost twenty years since CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS or GOOSEBUMPS first garnered my interest. For the people my age with kids who also enjoyed them in the past will probably want to share that experience with their kids, so it should be enjoyable for the whole family. Imagine the people that grew up with SCOOBY-DOO who took their kids to see the live action movie. Sure, it's a cross-generational thing with Scooby, but for someone who was looking to take a trip down memory lane with their children must've been very upset.
So, C'mon, Hollywood! Treat our nostalgic material with some respect before throwing it up on the big screen. I'm not saying these two projects need to be made with complete commitment to the source material, but keep the audience in mind when important things from their childhood come into play (I was a strange kid). Here's to hoping they put something of quality out and give a whole new generation something nostalgic to bitch and moan about when they get older. Tra-la-laaa!!!