Fantasy Island (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

fantasy island bannerPLOT: Five contest winners arrive at a mysterious island paradise, run by the enigmatic Mr. Roarke (Michael Pena), who promises them that the island will bring their biggest fantasies to life, good or bad.

REVIEW: Why reboot “Fantasy Island?” That’s the question I asked myself upon hearing that Blumhouse was doing a big-screen version. I was even more puzzled after seeing the (pretty stylish) trailer, which revealed that the show, which was basically “The Love Boat” on land, was being reimagined as a horror flick. Is the name recognition for the property still so valuable?

Suffice to say, the film version of FANTASY ISLAND is weirdly targeted, as the teen audience Blumhouse is trying to attract will no doubt have never heard of the show, making some of co-writer/director Jeff Wadlow’s choices all the more inexplicable, as while the genre is different, many things from the show are slavishly recreated (someone even says “the plane! The Plane!”). But, will anyone appreciate or understand why Michael Pena’s Mr. Roarke is always wearing a white suit or sports a super affected accent?

Fans, of course, will know both things were a staple of Ricardo Montalban’s performance from the show, and Pena seems to be having a whale of a time imitating him. He’s pretty much the only thing though that makes FANTASY ISLAND worth watching, as it ranks among the most unsatisfying and dull Blumhouse productions in some time, not even saved by the uniformly attractive cast and locale.

Most significantly, it’s not the least bit scary. It’s hard to even qualify this as horror despite the Blumhouse moniker, but it’s also not funny enough to be a comedy, not exciting enough to be a thriller, or action-driven enough to be an actioner. Rather, it tries to be many things but fails at all of them.

Like in the show, the plot is driven by the fantasies of the guests, with Austin Stowell a frustrated soldier wannabe who wants to play war (but really only wants his dad), Maggie Q a businesswoman who gave up on having a family, Lucy Hale as a former geek wanting revenge on her bully, and Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang as two brothers with serious co-dependency issues.

All of the fantasies wind up coming together as one, with fantasy within the fantasy reveals that will surprise no one. The movie seems on the verge of getting into horror when Hale realizes that her former tormentor (played by Portia Doubleday) has been kidnapped and brought to the island to be her play thing, but again – it’s all so tame. This has to be the lightest PG-13 I’ve seen in a while, with nary a drop of blood, even when zombies randomly figure into the plot. The premise is so dumb the only way this could have worked would have been had they went all-in on the gore and made it grand Guignol, and maybe in another version that’s what happened, as the final version feels…neutered.

The performances are fine here, but no one is given much to work with. Stowell and Q seem to have been chosen because they look great in skimpy clothes (Q is too good for this kind of thing and deserves meatier roles), while Hansen and Yang are kinda/sorta the stoner comic relief, although if this somehow spawns a franchise, one of them is given a silly connection to the show I’m pretty sure I was the only one old enough in my audience to get. Hale at least gets to chew some scenery (as does a wild-eyed Michael Rooker in an extended cameo), but ultimately this is disposable fluff, although at least it’s shot well with Toby Oliver making the most of that skimpy Blumhouse budget, which I guess was healthy enough to allow them to shoot in Fiji.

Again, FANTASY ISLAND certainly isn’t something that ever begged for a reboot, but what’s wrong with this is how completely it fails its genre audience, who’ll no doubt find this positively thrill less, even as far as mainstream PG-13 genre goes. It’s quick and cheap and isn’t bad enough to hurt anyone’s career, but it’s flat and very disposable even by some pretty low standards.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.