Never heard of the TV series “Fantasy Island”? It’s fine. I’m pretty sure this films’ producers haven’t heard of it either.
While I’ve never watched an episode of the series, I do find the premise interesting – a magical island that brings your biggest dream to life, regardless of what that may entail or how impossible that might be. For a television show, that has a lot of potential, each episode bringing in a new guest with a different fantasy. Much like “Star Trek,” the possibility for episodes is endless and each episode could be a different genre, some going for more dramatic and introspective, while others could be funny or action-packed or thrilling.
The new “Fantasy Island” movie though decides to take none of those routes, remove the wonder and awe of an island that can grant your wishes and make an uninspired and forgettable horror movie that has no business being a horror film. Not only is a movie the wrong format for this premise, because there are about six different plotlines that have no business being connected, but then it doubles down on the stupidity by trying to go deeper in an “Inception”-style plot where everything is a fantasy-within-a-fantasy, without ever making any of these characters seem like anything more than walking stereotypes.
It was honestly painful watching “Fantasy Island,” mostly because the rules of the island don’t make any sense. From the beginning, they make it clear that everyone only gets one fantasy and that everything they imagine isn’t real – if they imagine a certain person, like a long lost lover. Except the movie contradicts itself almost immediately. While one guest wants a second chance to fall in love again, and gets a not-real copy of her former boyfriend, another guest wants revenge on a childhood bully and they fly in the actual bully for her to literally torture. Why did they need to kidnap the bully? Couldn’t the island make a fake bully like it made a fake boyfriend or a fake dead father for another guest?
But it doesn’t stop there – at least three different guests get multiple wishes, even some getting another wish while their former wish is still playing out. The film can’t make up its mind on what these characters truly want and it is infuriating, especially since the rules get thrown out the window. Why should any of this matter to these people? If there really are no rules, then if anything goes bad, they could use another wish to undo everything.
Even then, it’s not clear how the island knows what to wish for, especially for one character whose wish keeps changing. At first, he makes it clear that he wants to serve in an active military situation and be a soldier, but then it quickly changes to fighting alongside his dead father, then changes again to saving his father, only for all of that to be completely pointless when we find his real fantasy was “to be a hero.” Why go through that whole ordeal when the island could have just given him superpowers and fight crime? It is unnecessarily convoluted and never gives us a chance to like this guy when his motivation is all over the place.
That’s the problem with “Fantasy Island” in a nutshell – way too many ideas, and not enough talent to execute them all. It feels like they tried to cram an entire television season’s worth of ideas into a 90-minute movie. Nothing comes organically, everything feels rushed and the characters have no defining traits or development. It all feels hollow at best, and insulting at worst. Ultimately, a massive waste of time.
Final Grade: F