This was not a good weekend for movies I haven’t yet reviewed. The top three spots at the box office were taken by healthy holdovers “Halloween,” “A Star is Born,” and “Venom.” In fourth place was the three-week-old “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween,” whose timeliness is about to expire. All the way down in fifth was new release “Hunter Killer,” which is sure to be deservingly written off as a bomb very soon. Neither of the unreviewed films made much of an impression on me, so I’ve decided to throw them together in an article you can safely ignore.
Please do not take my apathy towards the films in question as meaning that I don’t recommend others. I assure you there are better movies out there. In addition to surefire Oscar contender “A Star is Born,” there’s also underperforming outer space epic “First Man” and goodhearted animated kiddie flick “Smallfoot.” All of these films are worth seeing, and you should catch the latter two soon because the clock is ticking. With that in mind, here are my thought on the two movies that warranted reviews:
“Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween”
I was not a fan of the original “Goosebumps” from 2015. The humor was painful and the film threw monsters at the screen with little regard for the development the characters had been given in the popular series of books by R.L. Stine. It is perhaps because the first film dropped the ball so badly that I found the second film actually quite watchable by comparison.
The protagonists, a pair of aspiring inventors (Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris) are more likeable this time around, probably they actually look like kids and not adults trying to come off as teenagers. Villain Slappy the Dummy is more focused and menacing, and the gags about Halloween decorations coming to life are darker and sharper.
The film is by no means a masterpiece, with the humor still lowbrow in places and CGI monsters existing for no other reason than to be eye candy (there’s just no way to make giant gummy bears threatening, as their fangs are no match for my ability to just eat them). But at least this installment is acceptable as a form of innocuous Halloween entertainment.
“Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” is rated PG for scary creature action and images, some thematic elements, rude humor and language. Its running time is 90 minutes.
Soldiers who serve on submarines in real life are heroes. They brave claustrophobia, water pressure, and enemy combatants all while in an incredibly vulnerable environment. Movies like “Hunter Killer” show soldiers on a spacious set nowhere near water while the stars bark orders from consoles. I’m weary of submarine movies from the get-go, let alone ones as bad as “Hunter Killer.”
For a brainless piece of action trash, the film is awfully heavy on plot. Basically a thrown-together submarine crew led by Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) has to save the world from an evil Russian defense minister who wants to start World War III. Also at work is a land-based team of Navy SEALS led by Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens) who do all the heavy lifting because even the filmmakers knew that the submarine stuff wasn’t that interesting. There’s also some squabbling in a war room in D.C. between most of the film’s billed cast (Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini) that is barely consequential except as an excuse to justify the actors’ presence.
The film wants to succeed as a turn-off-your-brain action movie, which is annoying enough, but it doesn’t even do that well because the submarine lends itself so poorly to action. The only action movie trope it does somewhat right is the laughs it gets from its dialogue, which is more laughably bad than it is legitimately funny. This movie will thankfully be gone from theaters soon with no real harm done, but there was no reason to make such a non-entity of a movie in the first place.
“Hunter Killer” is rated R for violence and some language. Its running time is 122 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.