February 14, 2020 Fantasy Island (Movie Review)
Some might remember a little television show called Fantasy Island, which aired from 1977 through 1984. Harmless fun centering on a unique island resort in the Pacific Ocean, which would fulfill any fantasy requested by each episode’s new batch of visitors, it was a true guilty pleasure for thousands and thousands of people watching at home. Now with 36 years of the show being off the air, we have the inevitable theatrically released, re-imagined Horror reboot from Blumhouse Entertainment hitting theaters everywhere on Friday, February 14, 2020, via Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Directed by Jeff Wadlow (Cry Wolf 2004, Kick-Ass 2 2013), and written by not one, not two but three writers – Wadlow, Christopher Roach (Non-Stop 2014, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare 2018) and Jillian Jacobs (Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare 2018). The film stars Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars series, Scream 4 2011), Maggie Q (Live Free or Die Hard 2007, Allegiant 2016), Michael Peña (Crash 2004, American Hustle 2013), Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars series, Friday the 13th 2009) , Portia Doubleday (Youth in Revolt 2009, Carrie 2013), Austin Stowell (Whiplash 2014, Battle of the Sexes 2017), as well as Jimmy O. Yang (Silicon Valley series, Life of the Party 2018), and is a fitting date movie for Valentine’s Day…or is it?
Peña plays the charismatic though mysterious Mr. Roarke [a role originally made famous by Ricardo Montalban] who makes the secret dreams of his lucky guests come true at the luxurious but remote tropical resort. When the fantasies turn into nightmares, the guests have to solve the island’s mystery in order to escape with their lives.
On the surface, the plot seems quite simple and you would think it is just like a two-hour episode of the original series with some Horror mixed in. That would be completely fine and make for a perfectly fun time at the movies, however the problem is it is fun for about 15-20 minutes, and then you will be just as anxious to get off the island as the characters are.
To Fantasy Island’s credit, it wastes absolutely no time getting into the thick of it. Within the first five minutes, the lead characters arrive on the island. Each character has a different background, different fantasy. As they embark on their fantasies, things begin to spiral out of control causing all of the fantasies to intersect with each other throughout the story. Now our characters must band together to figure out how to stop the madness of it all! The acting by the leads is all perfectly fine, however Hansen and Yang are easily the stand-outs as the comedic relief. They play stepbrothers of different races who like to high-five and party a lot, and their material is the most entertaining and are the parts that actually somewhat kind of work.
That in mind, the biggest problem with Fantasy Island is tone – it has been described as a mix of Westworld and 2011’s The Cabin in the Woods. Whether they were referring to the original 1973 Michael Crichton film or the HBO show is as mysterious as the amount of time it actually took to write this script. Two weeks seems like an accurate estimate. Regardless, the channel surfing tone is all over the place. It plays with melodrama, slapstick humor, jump scare Horror, Adventure, Action… And yet doesn’t quite hit the landing on any of them, creating a very frustrating experience for the viewer. This is a film that seems to desperately want you to follow its plot, but the plot is so annoyingly dense and jumbled and badly structured that you might find yourself more confused then engaged.
Having said all that, if you have a few drinks beforehand, the majority of the film is certainly passable. Except for an unforgivable third act which will either cause you to throw popcorn at the screen in utter disbelief or howl in laughter. Or both. Who knows, maybe that was the intention. It is a Horror-Comedy after all. One just wishes it was a smarter Horror-Comedy that did not insult the viewer with plot holes larger than the island itself. What tops this all off is a shockingly lazy ending which might go down in cinema history as one of the worst twists of all time.
It is a shame because if you are not familiar with the original series, this reboot will probably make you steer clear from ever visiting it. Not to say the series was anything to write home about, but it had its charm here and there. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives the theatrical attempt at Fantasy Island 1.5 out of 5 stars.