Fantasy Island (2020)

I’ll begin this review by asking two favors of you, dear readers.  Numero Uno:  Can anyone explain what in the name of Burt Bacharach is going on with this version of Fantasy Island?  And I mean anything.  Like, who thought the kitschy 70s TV show needed a modern movie version?  Or, why did those particular people feel the need to further desecrate our collective nostalgia by dressing said film up as a cheap, gory, dunder-brained Twilight Zone knock-off?  Numero Dos:  I want you to wave a magic wand and make me care about any of the answers to any of those questions.  Achieve both of those miracles, and you’ll be well on your way to sainthood.  Hell, that’s probably more than two favors, but this is my paragraph of gibberish.  I do what I want. 

Before I dissect the pallid, scrawny corpse of this movie’s plot, I’ll just put this right out there:  I don’t remember much about the iconic series that inspired it.  Yeah, there’s the image of diminutive Hervé Villechaize screaming one of the most bizarre catchphrases in all of pop culture:  “Ze plane!  Ze plane!”  And Ricardo Montalban, whose smooth accent sounded like how humidors smell.  Also, I recall something about rich, misguided goobs who plunked down big money to live out their weirdest, wildest fantasies.  It was bizarre, fascinating television–an unlikely artifact of its era. 

This wrongheaded adaptation begins with–you guessed it–a plane landing on a remote island.  A bunch of blithering, blathering nincompoops offload onto the dock, and I pretty much hate ’em already:  We get the Horny Midriff Girl (Lucy Hale), the Obnoxious Sweaty Frat Boys (Jimmy O. Yang and Ryan Hansen), the Hunky Jock (Austin Stowell), and the Woman with a Dark Secret (Maggie Q).  Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña), the island’s mysterious curator, greets the new guests and informs them of the rules:  Everybody gets to live out one fantasy, and that fantasy has to play all the way through. Oh yeah, there’s also a weird mountain man (Michael Rooker, looking a lot like a scraggly Richard Simmons) lurking in the bushes with a hunting knife.  He’s there for…reasons.  Hell, I don’t even remember.  

What follows is a series of nightmarish allegories designed to teach each participant a lesson.  At least, I think that’s what happens.  The rules of this movie change constantly.  Character motivations shift in ways that don’t make any sense.  If you gave me the choice of either:  A) Being able to explain what the hell this movie is trying to do, or B) Stapling my right ear lobe to the wall, it would be a real debate.  I’m not sure where my stapler is, so there’s that.

Some movies, like Plan 9 or Cats, achieve an almost-mystical level of badness.  They’re captivating, in a schlocky, masochistic kinda way.  Fantasy Island is just flat-out friggin’ bad.  As a horror film, it’s not scary.  As a remake, it disregards anything that made its predecessor worthwhile.  Actually, I retract both favors I asked earlier.  Don’t try and explain this movie to me, because then you’d have to watch it.  And I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.  

109 min.  PG-13.

 

 

 

Author: Todd Wofford

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