What is my perfect movie fantasy? If I could magically create one, I would have to consider so many factors: Who would star, direct and write it? Would I go with a gritty horror film? A compelling drama? An absurdist comedy? Whatever I chose, it would be the exact opposite of every single thing crammed into the weird and woeful reboot of “Fantasy Island.”
I don’t know why a film based on a 40-plus-year-old television show that has vanished from pop-culture exists. The show is only remembered for Hervé Villechaize’s classic line, “The Plane! The Plane!” Yet, someone, somewhere, in some itchy corner of hell, decided to dust off the concept of an island where everyone’s fantasies can come true and turn it into a hybrid horror/thriller. The results are laughable and at times downright hilarious.
Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña) is a secretive businessman who has left the civilized world for a mysterious resort island that can supposedly make people’s dreams come true. He welcomes a group of new guests, each with their own fantasy they hope to have fulfilled. These fantasies range from run-of-the-mill epic parties to revenge scenarios, all of them rendered with a crazy amount of detail. Melanie (Lucy Hale) is hellbent on getting revenge against the girl who tormented her in high school. Gwen (Maggie Q) dreams of reliving the moment she spurned the love of her life. Patrick (Austin Stowell) is a former police officer who wants to prove his courage to be in the military. Each of their fantasies come to life in unexpected ways. Soon enough they realize they should be careful what they wish for.
Who possibly could have seen that coming?
“Fantasy Island” is like an episode of “Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror,” crafted by soft-core porn producers. Actually, that’s not totally fair. At least soft-core porn producers provide brief moments of satisfaction. “Fantasy Island” is probably more akin to an episode of “Black Mirror,” produced by whatever malignant entity makes something like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” None of the characters in the film feel like real people. They’re shoddily assembled one-dimensional archetypes. The only two I found remotely amusing were the Weaver brothers (Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang), who seem like a copy/paste job from a superior over-the-top sex comedy script.
Every scene with the Weaver brothers made me wish the entire film centered around their crazy subplot, which involves two sex-crazed brothers of opposite sexual identities, a bunch of super-hot men and women, an armory full of weapons, and a group of militant Central Americans looking for a hidden fortune. This should have been the entire movie—forget the whole lazily scripted connections between the characters and the murky “Lost”-like plotting of the “magical” island. Abandon all attempts at creating tension around Mr Rourke’s secrets. None of it is even close to being as amusing as the Weaver brothers’ performance and execution of 1980s sex comedies.
“Fantasy Island” is trash. But for a few brief moments, it’s glorious trash. I wish the creative minds behind the movie had more gleefully indulged the ridiculous and trashy elements of the story, and had some real fun with it. The premise feels half-baked, and the PG-13 rating tells everyone the story won’t take any gloriously gruesome turns. There was a chance to create some real B-grade schlock, but director Jeff Wadlow (“Truth or Dare”) plays everything way too safe.
In the hands of an unapologetic, fearless director, “Fantasy Island” could have been something special. Pair an Eli Roth (“Hostel”) or Adam Wingard (“You’re Next”) with this idea, and we might have ended up with something fantastic. Unfortunately, we got a tepid, shapeless and charisma-free mess.