Re­make of late ’70s ‘Fan­tasy Is­land’ is a chore

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - Review - BY MICHAEL PHILLIPS CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Re­tool­ing the late ’70s/ early ’80s ABC prime-time sta­ple “Fan­tasy Is­land” as a sin­is­ter gotcha! out­ing isn’t a bad idea.

That’s the wheel. The spokes are ev­ery­thing else, and most ev­ery­thing else about the new hor­ror movie from the Blum­house crew and direc­tor Jeff Wad­low is not good. Four in­ter­twin­ing fan­tasies, four sto­ries’ worth of lame ideas, poorly ex­e­cuted. Call it “De-Plane Crash.” Call it “The Is­land of Dr. No-Thank-You.” Call it “Worstworld.”

Call it sur­pris­ing, to me, any­way, if it finds an au­di­ence past the first week. Just don’t call it much of a movie.

Gone, of course, is the grandly ges­tic­u­lat­ing Ri­cardo Mon­tal­ban as Mr. Roarke, though his white suit has been re­tai­lored for a sub­dued, some­what indis­tinct Michael Pena. The mys­te­ri­ous re­sort owner’s per­sonal as­sis­tant and gen­eral greeter is now played by a woman, Parisa Fitz-Hen­ley, best known for the TV series “Mid­night, Texas,” an­other, bet­ter su­per­nat­u­ral foray, and here one of the few bright spots in an oth­er­wise dim mashup.

“Fan­tasy Is­land” tog­gles be­tween the elab­o­rate fan­tasies of four sets of char­ac­ters. Lucy Hale and Por­tia Dou­ble­day en­act a “Mean Girls” re­venge sce­nario. Mag­gie Q plays a woman yearn­ing for a hus­band and child, but mired in self-loathing and re­gret de­rived from a tragic ac­ci­dent years ear­lier, one with end­less re­ver­ber­a­tions, as we learn.

A pair of lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive bros (Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang) just want to have fun, but they must reckon with life-al­ter­ing de­ci­sions. The fourth plot­line an­chor is hoisted by Austin Stow­ell, who lost his soldier fa­ther at a young age and has strug­gled to get right ever since.

The screen­play by direc­tor Wad­low, Jil­lian Ja­cobs and Christo­pher Roach, takes a sig­nif­i­cant leap in re­solv­ing th­ese sep­a­rate nar­ra­tive strands, though there’s some shiv­ery po­ten­tial and an oc­ca­sional pay­off when the char­ac­ters find them­selves in­side some­one else’s fan­tasy. That’s use­ful, if fa­mil­iar, sto­ry­telling.

Less use­ful is con­fin­ing ev­ery­one to the world’s dullest un­der­ground cav­ern for a pro­tracted cli­max, while lay­ing on the di­a­logue like there’s no to­mor­row. Se­ri­ously, the run­ning time of “Fan­tasy Is­land” should be listed as “some­time to­mor­row.”

For the record, it’s 110 min­utes, prov­ing that time is rel­a­tive. Some­times old TV shows make for good new films, and some­times they don’t. I guess my life les­son was a lit­tle less dra­matic than the char­ac­ters’.

BLUM­HOUSE PRO­DUC­TIONS/COLUMBIA PIC­TURES

A hor­ror-style spin on a pop­u­lar 1970s TV show will be seen in the new movie, "Fan­tasy Is­land."

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