Jeff Wadlow works with Blumhouse Productions once more and takes the directorial lead to reboot the 1970’s series of the same name not a single soul asked for. “Fantasy Island” is a film that acts as a perfect crash course on how not to construct an enticing narrative. Wadlow’s work behind the camera is fine if not uninspired, but every aspect of “Fantasy Island” is uninspired and lazily done in a manner that would lead you to believe the entire cast and crew came up with several first ideas and ran with them without taking a second pass to flesh them out or make them intriguing. From terrible characters to an uninteresting plot that continues to stack insipid elements one on top of the other, “Fantasy Island” is a wreck of a film that above all else, will make you groan with every vapid moment that passes.
“Fantasy Island” opens with our main cast of contest winners departing their plane and stepping foot onto the lush and beautiful local known as Fantasy Island. Our winners are Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q), Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale), Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell), Brax Weaver (Jimmy O. Yang), and J.D. Weaver (Ryan Hansen) who all have their own individual fantasies they wish to make a reality. While on the docks, they are all greeted by Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley) a caretaker on the island, and Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña) the main man running the show who specifies that every guest must live out their fantasies to their natural conclusions. They lead the winning contestants into the hotel and explain to them the “rules” of the island while showing all of them to their rooms. For the first day, all of the winners get acquainted with one another while the sun is still up by striking conversation to figure out what everyone’s fantasy is. Later on that night, everyone splits up and prepares for their fantasies to become realized; all except Brax and J.D. who while exploring the island under nightfall stumble upon a flashy mansion party. The two brothers instantly light up and join the raving festivities. The following day, Mr. Roarke shows the remaining island goers to their respective fantasies. Gwen has a desire to go back in time and accept the marriage proposal she refused so many years ago, Melanie wishes to get revenge on an old bully that tormented her during her high school years, Patrick dreams of enlisting in the army to honor his father who perished on the battlefield long ago. With every guest in their individual fantasy, not all things are as they seem. Strange occurrences and unsavory characters begin popping up everywhere leading to every fantasy linking in unthinkable ways as they all uncover the mystery hidden beneath Fantasy Island.
After the title card of “Fantasy Island” passes, we are introduced to one of the most painfully bland casts of characters ever put to screen. Let us first begin with the insufferable duo of Brax and J.D. These two brothers are the absolute worst this film has to offer. Brax and J.D. are two different characters that ultimately share the same exact fantasy (with a few minor preferences) based on the fact that they are brothers, I guess? When looking at the character that is Brax, there is really nothing present of any substance. It is clear that the writers put up a board of random traits, threw some darts, and wherever those darts landed they said “Hey! We’ll give that to Brax!”. Brax is a mess of a character that is designed to fill a number of trite roles but completely fails at selling any of those positions. Ryan Hansen as J.D. is assigned the role of playing the dumb jock dude-bro archetype that has been done a thousand times over. Ryan is given nothing more than some outdated dumb jokes that always fail to land. Next, we have Lucy Hale (no stranger to Blumhouse) as Melanie Cole who is the most juvenile character on the entire roster. Every time Hale parts her lips, she does so to spew one horrible line after the other fed to her by the THREE writers attached to the project. Everything Hale is given is either obnoxious or utterly humorless, and sometimes it is a combination of both. The final two major vacationers are Maggie Q as Gwen and Austin Stowell as Patrick. There really is nothing to say about these two characters other than they are just two simple slices of white bread, plain. Q is given the most “emotionally” resonant story but it sadly goes nowhere and winds up feeling empty. Stowell’s story is easily the most intriguing of the two with a couple of twists and misdirects sprinkled all throughout that make his fantasy stand out amongst the rest. Their characters do not exactly commit anything egregious, but both actors fail to deliver any breakout performance. In general, every character in “Fantasy Island” is absolutely unbearable; everyone across the board is nothing more than dull. However, despite the cast not churning out any stellar performances, the cast is not solely to blame. The majority of my displeasure stems primarily from director (also co-writer) Jeff Wadlow, along with fellow writers Jillian Jacobs and Christopher Roach as these three had the opportunity to create complex and dynamic characters with interesting plots given the source. But, they failed in every respect imaginable that did not leave me laughing or feeling disappointed; I merely fantasized of what I could have done with the time I had just wasted.
“Fantasy Island” had a marketing campaign that made it appear as though it would be a trippy vacation gone wrong thriller. “Fantasy Island” delivers only on the “vacation gone wrong” part. Tonally the film is a mess as it is forced to jump from fantasy to fantasy which are all extremely varied. You have a mansion rave, a marriage story, a jungle war, and a retribution tale; none of these fantasies have anything in common which can be viewed as a strength, but when there is no through-line that can competently connect these loose stories, the entire plot falls apart. Instead of taking a deep dive into interesting themes to explore within these diverse fantasies, the film cops out to utilize jump scares and lousy jokes with a healthy side of nonsense as it slowly devolves into an awfully generic action film that fails to accomplish even the bare minimum. “Fantasy Island” is a property that laid dormant for nearly three and a half decades (two decades if you count the 1998 television reboot) and it really is a shame because the concept behind the project is extremely unique. Yet, if we receive another dreadfully half-baked reboot in the likes of this film, maybe the “Fantasy Island” series should rest for another thirty years.