Remake of late ’70s ‘Fantasy Island’ is a chore
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’.
A horror-style spin on a popular 1970s TV show will be seen in the new movie, "Fantasy Island."