Movie Review: ‘Fantasy Island’

Director: Jeff Wadlow

Cast: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Jimmy O. Yang, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker

Plot: A group of young people arrive by plane on a luxury resort island that promises to make their every fantasy come true. They soon find that there’s always a catch.

Review: Fantasy Island is one of the franchises that always has the capacity to be revisited, along with The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. The concepts are simple, yet open the doors for themes and discussions about anything relevant to the time and place in which it is produced. It’s a blank template just waiting for a smart, imaginative creative team to make the most of it.

Unfortunately we didn’t get an imaginative creative team, we got Jeff Wadlow, who disappointed audiences with Truth or Dare, Cry Wolf and Kick-Ass 2. I know that comes across as harsh, but Wadlow comes at us with promising concepts that fail to deliver. His last thriller, Truth or Dare was needlessly complicated and mind-numbingly silly, which indicates that he’s keeping things consistent with Fantasy Island.

For those unfamiliar, Fantasy Island is a resort island where the visitors can have whatever fantasy they want come true. Even if they’re not realistic or possible, the island will magically make them happen. Eventually they have something go terrible wrong and learn an important lesson from the experience. As you’d expect, this concept works best when the participant’s own hubris is the source of their downfall, and there’s an emotional investment in the people who eventually learn the truth about themselves. Spoiler warning: this doesn’t happen.

We open with Mr. Rourke (Peña) welcoming a group of guests onto the island. Without spending any time with these characters prior to this we don’t know anything about them, so instead they deliver clunky, unrealistic dialogue explaining what we need to know in preparation for their stories. A pair of brothers live as decadent, wealthy playboys, a man gets to join the army, a woman has the chance to accept the marriage proposal she once turned down and another gets to torture her childhood bully.

They all accept the time-travel, resurrection and other weird happenings without much fuss and start to enjoy themselves only for things to go wrong. The brothers have their mansion attacked from the drug cartel who used to own it, the guy gets put in the army with his father who died a hero (the twist is that he’ll see him die…but he didn’t specify meeting his father, so fuck him). After accepting a marriage proposal and jumping forward in time the woman finds herself a mother and it’s awkward. As you can see, the dark side of their fantasies are purely random and have little to nothing to do with what they wished for. They’re all very boring typecasts, so there’s little reason to care about them.

Oh, and Michael Rooker is running around as a survival of a previous fantasy, but he’s got little to no impact on the story as a whole and dies before the final act, so it doesn’t matter.

Speaking of the final act, the final half hour revolves around most of the characters taking it in turns to spout conspiratorial twists or claim “ah-ha! You were all part of my fantasy!” The films idea of a clever ending is to trot out a half dozen potential twist endings with diminishing returns on each one.

Fantasy Island is cheap looking, badly written and badly acted. So yeah, just like Truth or Dare.

Rating: TWO out of TEN