Fantasy Island

Review by Rich Cline | 1.5/5

Fantasy Island
dir Jeff Wadlow
scr Jeff Wadlow, Chris Roach, Jillian Jacobs
prd Jason Blum, Marc Toberoff, Jeff Wadlow
with Michael Pena, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Jimmy O Yang, Portia Doubleday, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker, Mike Vogel, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Kim Coates, Robbie Jones
release US 14.Feb.20,
UK 6.Mar.20
20/US Columbia 1h49

q yang sw

stowell, pena and hale
It might have worked to reboot the iconic 1970s TV series into the horror genre, but filmmaker Jeff Wadlow doesn't seem terribly committed to that idea. Instead he loads scenes with silly nostalgia and dopey comedy then stirs in choppy action, grisly nastiness and elements stolen liberally from Westworld. But none of these things come together as the film takes a series of sadistic turns, ultimately collapsing into gibberish.
Guests arrive at this tropical island resort hoping that host Mr Roarke (Pena) will make their fantasies come true. Chucklehead brothers Brax and JD (Yang and Hansen) stage an epic party. The mysterious Gwen (Q) is hoping to right a past mistake. The flirty Melanie (Hale) wants revenge on a mean girl (Doubleday) from eighth grade. Patrick (Stowell) yearns to be a soldier, but isn't expecting to meet his late father (Vogel). Meanwhile, a wild man (Rooker) in the jungle is issuing warnings that there's something nefarious going on here.
The film is produced to a high standard, and the general idea is skilfully set up, drawing us in with clever ideas and promising storylines. The guests' reactions to the elaborately staged fantasies are realistic, an intriguing mix of surprise, trepidation and exhilaration until things begin twisting. Some of the plotlines have heavy supernatural angles, and all of them feel haphazard in the way they're assembled, veering wildly in tone, logic and characterisation.

The actors are solid, but veering so wildly between comedy, action, horror and melodrama makes it impossible for even one character to emerge with any resonance. Q's story is the most emotional, and almost identifiable, although it it remains frustratingly simplistic. Yang and Hansen are enjoyable in a silly action comedy, although they never find their bromance. Hale and Doubleday struggle to locate their characters. Stowell and Vogel emote a lot about heroics, but barely scratch the surface. And Pena plays it far too seriously.

The TV series was never subtle about its moral messages, but this film pushes everything over the top, straining to interconnect the strands, ramp up the brutality and lay on syrupy sentimentality. Each character realises that getting their deepest wish isn't as wonderful as they thought it would be. But where things go is so pointless that it's almost breathtaking. Especially when the script tries to explain the island's magical powers (Midichlorians would have made more sense). So the final act feels like it will never end.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 28.Feb.20

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