“Fantasy Island” review by Nate Blake

False advertising pretty much sums up this Blumhouse disaster. I have seen more episodes of the original television series Fantasy Island than I am proud to admit. That relic from the 1970s doesn’t meet the threshold of great entertainment either, but Blumhouse promised more in the trailer. If you have seen it, you know that the ad showed a group of strangers who end up on an island where they can live out their deepest fantasies. The breathless score and bright colors fade as we are shown the best parts of a scene where one of the guests discovers the bully she wanted to act out retribution against is not a visual effects recreation, but the real person. The clips suggests a more horrifying re-imagining of the series, one that takes it’s premise and turns it inside out. The problem is, the actual film doesn’t do that. It plays out mostly like an episode of the original series would, albeit with more profanity and a lot more cleavage. There are one or two sequences that could be loosely described as horror, but this is mostly an awkward mix of action and sappy life lessons. It may have been charmingly kitsch four decades ago, but this update is just annoying and stupid. The characters do not help.

The guests consist of five individuals whose fantasies comprise four different story lines that merge at one point. I won’t say how, but it’s nowhere near a satisfying payoff. Anyway, all of the guests arrive and await for their fantasies to begin, following a reminder from Mr. Rooarke (Michael Pena) that once a fantasy begins, each guest must follow it to its natural conclusion.

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Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q) is looking to relive a key moment where she made a life altering decision that she believes was the wrong one. Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale) wants to enact revenge on a childhood bully. Patrick Sullivan’s (Austin Stowell) fantasy is to serve in the military. I started realizing how stupid this film was going to be when I noticed how young and fit Patrick was, and wanted to yell at the screen “then go then join the military you moron.” Of course, we later learn that Patrick is a coward in a flashback to his real life that isn’t as powerful as screenwriters Jeff Wadlow, Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs think it is. The fourth fantasy story line belongs to Brax Weaver (Jimmy O. Yang) and JD Weaver (Ryan Hansen). Their fantasy is the most pedestrian of all. They just want to live like powerful rich dudes. As this fantasy plays out, they spend their time drinking, doing drugs, partying by the pool and having lots of sex. This arc, though it later morphs into something else just like the other three, is immediately the weakest. The only interesting thing about is the tiny bit of LGBTQ representation we get since Brax is gay. That only briefly explored aspect of his character aside, this arc takes too long to start going somewhere. It doesn’t help that JD is the most annoying sort of bro imaginable, and Ryan Hansen’s performance is painfully forced.

The remaining story lines have promise, but peak too soon in order to get to the various fake outs and plot twists the convoluted story goes through to get to the film’s final fifteen minutes. The dialogue is pedestrian and the characters are shallow, which I expected, but this is also one of the films that seems to take pride in just how awful its jokes are. For example, during the falling action, a disgruntled guest threatens Mr. Roarke with a “one start review on Yelp.” The line is delivered as comic relief, but the five people in the auditorium just begging for this thing to end already merely sighed. Character exposition early on is brushed aside so that attractive people can flirt through all too scripted sounding dialogue. Barely thirty seconds after the guests meet in the resort bar for the first time, this exchange happens:

Patrick: “That plane ride was pretty noisy.”

Melanie: “I can get pretty noisy.”

Look, I expected this movie to be dumb escapism, but I thought it might to at least try to be scary. Instead,  this plays like a double episode of the original series. Despite the presence of smartphones, social media and a cast that’s just a bit more representative than you would have seen on ABC four decades ago, this is mostly a lazy transplant, not a worthwhile re-imagining. If only I could go to an island where lame remakes didn’t exist.

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