Blumhouse’s inane ‘Fantasy Island’ not worth the trek to the multiplex
Contrived and loony, it feels like someone planted about a half-dozen different scripts all over this Fantasy Island.
Everybody on “Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island” has a story.
Each of these stories is stupid, confusing, ridiculous — or all three.
Consider Michael Rooker’s knife-wielding, weather-beaten, wild-eyed Damon, who lurks in the jungle, looking like a demented version of the Tom Hanks character in “Castaway.” Once we learn his story, we have SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Jeff Wadlow, written by Wadlow, Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs. Rated PG-13 (for violence, terror, drug content, suggestive material and brief strong language). Running time: 109 minutes. Now showing at theaters.
Or what about Parisa Fitz-Henley’s Julia, the movie equivalent of the Tattoo character from the “Fantasy Island” TV show. (She even cries out, “The plane!”) We figure out her secret early on, but she disappears from the movie for long stretches at a time. And when she resurfaces, her actions are wildly inexplicable.
Then, there’s Mr. Roarke himself (Michael Pena), who delights in saying, “FAAAAHNTASY Island,” and has a story arc that’s beyond ludicrous, even for a guy in a white suit charged with running an island and possessing magical and mysterious powers to make your dreams come true.
Dreams certain to become nightmares.
I’m a big fan of the Blumhouse Productions scary movie factory (“Paranormal Activity,” “Get Out,” “Happy Death Day”), and I loved the idea of turning the cheesy “Fantasy Island” TV series into a horror film — but this movie is all empty calories, from the relatively tame shock moments (hence the PG-13 ratings) to the sometimes loony and quite arbitrary plot developments, to the performances by a cast that can’t seem to decide if they’re in a comedy or a poignant drama or a supernatural splatter film.
Not that it’s entirely their fault. It feels like someone planted about a half-dozen different scripts all over Fantasy Island.
After a manic prelude that never fully connects with the main story, “Fantasy Island” begins on a bright and beautiful note, as Mr. Roarke welcomes the latest batch of lucky contestants who have won a trip to the island paradise, which looks like the setting for “Lost,” only with a giant, spectacular resort near the water.
First sign something might be amiss here: The staffers at the resort look like live-action versions of characters from a Tim Burton animated film. They’re so creepy, it’s a wonder the guests don’t immediately ask Julia to summon “The plane!” so they can get the heck out.
Contestants get their ultimate fantasies — but there’s only one fantasy per customer, and you must see it through to its conclusion, no matter where it takes you. (As Mr. Roarke ominously explains, fantasies almost never play out how you’d expect.)
Meet the winners:
- Maggie Q’s Gwen is a lovely and sweet woman who regrets saying no to a marriage proposal five years ago. Her fantasy is to relive that moment and change the course of her life and have a family.
- Ryan Hansen’s JD and Jimmy O. Yang’s Brax are wacky, high-fiving stepbrothers and best friends straight out of a “Hangover” movie who just want to paaaaaarty, baby!
- Austin Stowell’s Patrick is a cop who wants to see combat duty as a way of connecting with his father, who was killed in action when Patrick was a little boy.
- Lucy Hale’s Melanie has the lamest fantasy of all: She wants to exact revenge on her childhood nemesis, Sloane (Portia Doubleday), who bullied and tormented Melanie and destroyed her self-image.
Geez, Melanie. If you’ve still got issues with Sloane, can’t you just troll her on social media and save your fantasy for something bigger?
At first, it’s all fun and fantasies — but as “Fantasy Island” splits into basically four mini-movies tracking the guests, each story becomes ever darker and disturbing, in some cases quite bloody.
In addition to the aforementioned creepy staffers, there are lots of other people on the island, from the dozens of scantily clad party animals in JD’s and Brax’s fantasy to the soldiers Patrick encounters in the jungle to a giant bodybuilder monster guy whose mouth is sewn shut to a little girl who materializes as Gwen’s daughter.
Are they humans? Holograms? Zombies? Figments of the imagination? All of the above? None of the above?
It’s difficult to overstate how little we care about the answer to that question because “Fantasy Island” never truly fleshes out ANY of the characters, whether we’re talking about the contest winners or Mr. Roarke and Julia or the various weridos who pop up from time to time like obstacles in a video game.
The attempt to tie all the stories together is such a sudden stretch, it’s a wonder nobody pulled a hamstring.
The only thing more insane and contrived than the Big Reveal is the epilogue, which contains not one but two maddeningly bizarre developments that are beyond strange and inconsistent, even for a movie that’s been strange and inconsistent all along.