The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - FANTASY ISLAND | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - FANTASY ISLAND

fantasy island 2020 review
Arriving at an island with the promise of having their fantasies fulfilled, a group of guests instead live out their nightmares.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow

Starring: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Jimmy O. Yang, Portia Doubleday

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Fantasy Island was a hugely popular TV show that aired from 1977-1984, but it has since left behind the cultural footprint of a dormouse. Millions of viewers tuned into the show in its heyday, but in the decades since, how many times have you heard it mentioned? Its online presence is practically non-existent, with a puzzling absence of the sort of nostalgic fan maintained sites that most cult shows of its era have given birth to. Fantasy Island was chewing gum TV, and it's been scraped off the sole of pop culture's moccasins long ago. Nobody asked for a Fantasy Island movie, but you're getting one regardless. Shut up and eat your greens.

The premise of the show saw guests arrive at the eponymous Pacific isle where the enigmatic Mr. Roarke made their fantasies come true. Roarke was played by the ultra-debonair Ricardo Montalban, but here he's replaced by the not so suave Michael Peña, who can't even be bothered to tuck his shirt in. Roarke's assistant, Tattoo, originally played by Herve Villechaise, is notably missing from this version, because Hollywood is desperate not to offend anyone and so simply erases the character rather than potentially reconciling with him in any progressive manner.

fantasy island review

The guests inevitably found that their fantasies weren't all they had imagined, usually leaving the island with a newfound appreciation of the humdrum lives they had taken for granted. Occasionally the show dabbled in horror, which explains why this big screen spinoff come from the Blumhouse stable.

[ READ MORE: The Horrors of Fantasy Island ]

The original show's fantasies were often divided along stereotypical gender lines, with male guests usually out to get laid or live out some macho fantasy of being a great soldier or hunter, while women generally wanted to fall in love or have a child. Director Jeff Wadlow and his writers stick to this setup, with a pair of overgrown frat boy brothers - Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) and JD (Ryan Hansen) - immediately hooking up with a bunch of models, and in a surprisingly enlightened move, the former gets it on with some male bodybuilders. Disgraced police officer Patrick (Austin Stowell) wants to make his late father proud by becoming a heroic soldier like the old man. Human Barbie doll Melanie (Lucy Hale) wants revenge on Sloane (Portia Doubleday), the cheerleader who made her life hell in high school. Gwen (Maggie Q) wants to go back in time and accept her boyfriend's marriage proposal.

fantasy island review

Once the guests get deep into their fantasies, they realise they're living out nightmare scenarios. Melanie discovers that the Sloane she's been torturing isn't some sophisticated hologram but the real life Sloane, who has been kidnapped and brought to the island. Patrick finds himself 25 years in the past and on the mission that claimed the life of his father. Brax and JD are targeted by Russian mobsters who claim that the brothers are simply props in their own fantasy. All seems to go well for Gwen, who gets married and has a kid, but then she insists that she wants to change her fantasy and use the island's time travel powers to go back a few years and prevent a tragedy.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Amulet ]

From this point on things begin to get complicated, as the various guests converge and repeatedly ask each other just what type of movie this is meant to be. Roarke seems eternally depressed and unwilling to help any of them, brushing off pleas for help with a stock line - "Each fantasy must reach its natural conclusion." Michael Rooker turns up as a private eye attempting to discover the truth behind the island's powers, which have something to do with water. Roarke's assistant Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley) appears to be stuck in some sort of Groundhog Day scenario. Konstantin Levin struggles to accept the Christian faith. Ivan Ilyich is cursed with a terminal illness. Pierre Bezukhov fights for his rightful inheritance.

fantasy island review

Halfway through Fantasy Island my brain shut down and refused to reboot. This film is more mentally taxing than sitting through the nine hour cut of Shoah. Its main issue is that it never decides whether it's a horror movie or a Brady Bunch Movie/Starsky & Hutch style parody of the original show, and neither horror buffs nor Fantasy Island fans (if any of the latter even exist) will be satisfied by this mess. Some jokes are made at the expense of the show, with characters asking the sort of inconvenient questions regarding the logistics of Roarke's operation that none of the '70s/'80s guests ever seem bothered with. To call this a horror movie is a stretch, as it simply isn't scary or suspenseful in any respect. If your lifelong fantasy was to visit the cinema for a big screen Fantasy Island spinoff, you'll find yourself living your worst nightmare.

Fantasy Island is on Netflix UK/ROI now.