Monday, July 6, 2009

Goosebumps: My Hairiest Adventure

If you're wondering if this is the one where it turns out that the kids are all dogs because a creepy scientist told a bunch of people he could turn their dogs into children...then yes. Yes, it is. And no, you don't get to yell at me for giving away the ending because by getting it over with right away, I saved you a lot of anguish. Like ripping the band aid off, not peeling it slowly.

We open on our hero, Larry, who narrates as he runs down the street. He tells us that he's not supposed to run because of "allergies" but that he's always being chased by dogs for no real reason. He climbs a tree to get away.

These are the most well groomed "wild dogs" ever. It's the canine equivalent of being chased down by a pack of Slim Shady look alikes in the suburbs. The tree branch Larry's sitting on snaps and he falls to the ground. He lands and they peer at him, bewildered. Come on, Larry! Dominate them! Be the pack leader! Larry shields himself with a guitar case festooned with stickers.

The cliches, the painfully penned homilies, they burn! Doubly so if he has a picture of an alien head or a BELIEVE IN YOURSELF sticker. (I wonder if he borrowed them from Ghostwriter's Lenni. But since there aren't any peace signs, I'm going to conclude no.)

Lily, Larry's best friend, shows up, rehabilitates the dogs, trains the humans, and the canines scram.

Larry foreshadows that Lily always wears a gold coin around her neck and she has two different colored eyes. Oh, R.L., your writing shines as ever. Why show us two differently colored eyes when you can just tell us about them? [Note to R.L., if Lily's also a dog, how come dogs don't chase her? is it because she bought Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan?] Lily teases Larry and the two head off to band practice.

This is more of a garage band, except they need about 45% more flannel. The gang is practicing for their newest gig, an audition for a kid's birthday party. They're all pretty nervous about it, though considering that the competition is John Wayne Gacy in clown-face, I wouldn't worry. Larry tells us that they practice at the Duncans' house--a family who moved out so quickly that they forgot to shut the electricity off. He also tells us that there are a lot of empty houses in the neighborhood for some reason. Not that that's, like, suspicious or anything, you know.

The band bites (see, I can make painfully obvious puns and awkward stabs at foreshadowing--where are my residuals, damnit?), but they make up for it with tie-dyed shirts, blue electric guitars, and a pretty girl to shake her...tambourine. (Yeah, that seems to be the extent of Lily's role.)

Larry tells the others that their music sucks. Jared thinks they're pretty good, as he rocks his keyboard solo (I wait for Jared to tell us how much he loves Neil Peart and how underrated Billy Ray Cyrus is).

Then Manny reaches over and finds a bottle of Insta-Tan and tells them they can look tan for their music gig.

(Okay, remind me again, why is the black kid the one most excited about tanning? Is someone covering up early onset vitiligo?) Lily, Manny, and Jared start rubbing the lotion on their skin (guess they're afraid of getting the hose again).

Larry warns the kids against using the tan lotion because they don't know where it's been. If I'd heard that little warning a few years ago, I wouldn't have herpes. In the words of guidance counselor Jeff Rosso, it doesn't hurt that much, but believe me, you don't want it.

Jared calls Larry "Hairy Larry" and mocks him for being a wimp. In a testament to how kids everywhere should stand up against peer pressure, Larry grabs the lotion and starts rubbing. (R.L.: "Uh, um, well, you see, we were going to add more dialogue there where Larry tries to stand up to his friends and their teasing, but we had to cut it for the Goosebumps action figure spots. Want a Haunted Mask figurine?" No, but I'll take a couple of Creeps and a Slappy.) Then Manny tells the others that the lotion is expired. It says, "CAUTION: Do not use after 1991." (No, that's what Jared's shirt says, and it's 1971, but close enough.)

Larry freaks then starts screaming about his skin coming off. He holds out his peeling arm. Then he starts laughing and says it's just paper towels, finishing it off with that classic 90s riposte, "PSYCH!" The others surround Larry about to spray him with cans of soda. (Replace soda with foam and this band could be huge. You guys should have copyrighted spraying stuff at people, and you could have been bigger than Jesus! Or the Jonas Brothers at any rate.)

But all of a sudden, Larry starts panting and collapses. Great foreshadowing. You know, for how the plot is going to collapse like the Shamwow guy's career. Next scene, Larry's lying on his bed, with his doctor, Dr. Murkin, giving him a shot. Apparently, it's another allergy thing and Larry has to make an effort to run less.

Note to Larry's parents--try to avoid a doctor who's named after the word for pubic wigs. Although, I have to wonder, was someone being clever ("Murkin"/merkin/in a story about hair, or did R.L. Stine just get lucky?)

Later that night, Larry experiences more hair growth as he pets his cat, Jasper. He freaks out and ends up spending a lot of time in the bathroom that night as his mom knocks on the door and asks what's wrong. (And I shudder as I realize I know WAY too much about R.L.'s troubled adolescence.)

The next day, Larry catches up with Lily and asks her if she's experienced any odd hair growth. She replies, "No," and he's all, "Uh, me neither, I was just wondering if you did. Also, did you ever think Bugs Bunny was hot when he was in drag?" Lily invites Larry for dinner that night, and he agrees, even though her parents will be there. The two of them decide to go past Jared's place since they haven't heard from him in a while. But when they get there, the house is empty and a real estate agent tells them that the house is up for sale and that the family has moved. Incidentally, there's a pretty huge error here. The two of them act like they're here to talk to Manny Hernandez (the black kid). Except that later in the episode, Larry ends up seeing what I assume is Manny's father and little brother (they're black) but he refers to his friend as "Jared." So I'm assuming the writers mixed up Jared and Manny and figured no one would care. Except for me.

Cut to the next scene--dinner at Lily's place. Larry realizes he's growing more hair as he reaches for some corn and pulls back. Too bad you're not wearing long sleeves that could cover your hair growth. Oh, wait. I sigh and decide to attribute the ineptness of the costume girl to the fact that she was probably screwing R.L.'s son or something.

Then Larry notices a tuft of hair in the corn cob that Lily's dad is eating. He knocks it out of his hand, exclaiming, "Corn worms! Deadly." I'm officially never eating corn again. Larry goes to hand Lily's father some more corn, but then looks down at his arm and realizes he's channeling Robin Williams.

Moaning, "Where's the bathroom?" he looks anguished and heads upstairs to manscape. And this is the most awkward "Meet the parents" scene since the time I met my (now ex) SO's extended family and got to hear Grandma tell me how she still got it on. Shudder. Hey, don't you think Ben Stiller watched this meet-your-SO's-parents-scene and thought, "Brilliant--this could be a feature length movie!" And that's how we got Reality Bites.

In the bathroom, Larry looks for shaving paraphernalia and finds nothing. I'm disappointed. This whole scene could have been great advertising for Nair. Or Nads. Or Epil Stop and Spray. Larry heads out a window onto the balcony. (Yes, a guest bathroom that leads out onto a balcony. Could this family get any worse at exterior design?)

For no real reason, the dogs are circling underneath yet again. Larry realizes he's in a tough bind. He nervously calls out, "What's for dessert?" "Tapioca." Well, it'll probably be the sweetest tapioca you ever eat, Larry, am I right?

Larry mulls his options. "Total embarrassment or a pack of savage dogs." Oh, come on. These dogs? They're the Snoopies of the dog bully world. Mildly annoying and that Red Baron act is so four decades ago, but get me Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and then we'll talk. Larry thinks, "I HATE tapioca." He manages to lose the dogs and heads home. He checks himself in the mirror before he wrecks himself.

Larry, a word--pull up your goddamn pants, white boy, the tan lotion hasn't kicked in yet. In other news, how long do you think before this picture ends up circulating among the NAMBLA mailing group?

Then he pulls up his pants leg and...THE HAIRINESS.

Oh, come on. I'm female. I went to an all girls' college and I saw way worse than this in our locker room every week. Grow hair long enough to dreadlock or Jheri curl, then we'll talk. Larry starts screaming, either in fright at the hair or in the hopes that John Hughes will see this and cast him in the latest Home Alone.

The kindly old doctor shows up and Larry spills the beans about the Insta tan lotion. But the good doctor points out that this probably wasn't the work of the tan lotion. After all, if tanning lotion could grow hair, we'd have a cure for baldness. (Somewhere, Phil Spector's face falls.) The doctor concludes that it's probably nerves because of the gig that the garage band has coming up. Larry notices the hair is gone the next morning.

On his way to school, he sees a dog barking yet again. Great. But this time it's a cute, mild-mannered dog wearing a coin around its neck with two different colored eyes.

"Lily?" he says, and the dog takes off. Then he approaches Lily's parents who are packing up to go and they deny ever having a daughter called Lily and pretend they don't know him. They tell him, "There is no mafia--everything in this family comes from the work I do!" I mean, er, there is no Lily.

Larry goes home and tries to tell his parents. "Gold coins are not uncommon," spouts Larry's dad. (On a DOG? Then again, I once saw my aunt's dog sporting a pearl necklace at his one year birthday party, so who am I to judge? And no, it wasn't that kind of pearl necklace, although honestly, that would be less creepy.) "And lots of dogs have different colored eyes," says his mother. Larry tells them about Lily's parents.

His mother points out that he must have misunderstood what Lily's parents told him. Poor Larry. Parents just don't understand! His mother offers him some roast beef and he yells, "I don't want food! I want answers!" (Man, if Russell Crowe hadn't landed the title role in The Insider, it would definitely have gone to Hairy Larry.) Larry hurls his guitar case down and takes off, and somewhere, hipsters everywhere groan, clutch their Les Pauls, and clap their hands to bring back Larry's shattered guitar.

Larry's parents call after him to be careful. His mother warns him to watch for cars. (Yeah, they didn't even try to make this one scary, did they.) Larry narrates as he runs, thinking that this must all be the fault of the Insta-tan lotion. Yup, way to remind the reader of the red herring. He goes to the garage where the band practices, hoping he can talk to Jared (stupid writers, Jared is the dumbass white kid!), only to hear barking. (Ooh, did you guys manage to hire Vince Neil?) I'm just going to refer to this new dog as Jared/Manny because I'm so confused about who Jared really is meant to be. Is he black or white?

Jared/Manny's father and little brother are sitting there with a black dog (is he gonna make me sweat, make me groove?).
"It's about time," says Jared/Manny's dad. (The fuck? You JUST told us that the Duncans lived here. Why is Jared/Manny's family here?) Then Larry tells us that the audition is today. So...did Manny/Jared's family bring him over or what? I love that the dog is black, just like his family. If there had been a Chinese boy, would he have become a yellow colored dog, or would he have morphed into a pug or a Pekingese or something?

Then the little boy runs to his father and looks frightened. And then Larry begins to sprout hair again. Considering that Jared/Manny's dad knows what's going on at his point, the fact that he doesn't say anything officially makes him a dick.

Larry runs home and screams for his parents.

So did the special effects people watch a Teen Wolf marathon the weekend before shooting? Then we go to a POV shot of Larry's parents looking at him in the living room. His dad offers him a cookie.

"Hel-LO? Get a clue. How 'bout a steak," says dog-Larry. Oh yeah, because tonguing your own feces encrusted balls is fine, but god forbid you should chow down on a cookie. Sorry, I'm just so sick and tired of these entitled trust fund living, purse inhabiting toy dogs. Larry breaks down and takes the cookie and his parents tell him how cute he is.

Then we cut to the same shot from the opening credits of the dog on the porch, with Larry narrating, "Now this seems familiar."

(Meta humor. Is there anything you can't do, R.L.?) Larry explains what's happened. "Excuse me," he tells us, "I like to snack," as the dog heads over and eats from his dog bowl. (My theory--they could only do this shot in one take and they wanted to have the dog looking at us as he explained, but the dog had other ideas and decided to go grab some food so they decided to write in that "snack" line as a voice-over. This is what happens when you can't afford a dog like Moose on Frasier and have to settle for a dog who's got Look Who's Talking Now stand-in and dog at the pound in Beethoven on his resume.)

Turns out Dr. Murkin came up with a way to turn dogs into humans (hence all the shots for Larry and the weird allergies--Larry wasn't perfected) for barren people who weren't content with dressing their dogs in baby clothes and putting them in cribs. The experiment didn't work and the humans are all now dogs. Lily, Manny, and Jared come over and hang out all the time now, and it's just like old times.

The doctor suddenly pulls up in a car and Larry freaks because old Doc Moreau is holding a baby. "Welcome to your new home, Jasper." "Jasper?" Larry asks. "The cat?" he reminds us. "MY Jasper?"

"Here we go again!" says Larry. Oh, scientists, will you ever learn? Well, on the plus side, Larry's parents can probably win thousands of dollars on the Ugly Babies of America circuit.

Well, that was horrifying. I'm off to go play with my Goosebumps action figure.