Fantasy Island is bankrolled by Jason Blum under his Blumhouse Productions banner.
Fantasy Island movie cast: Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, Portia Doubleday, Michael Peña, Ryan Hansen
Fantasy Island movie director: Jeff Wadlow
Fantasy Island movie rating: 1.5 stars
One way of justifying this mess would be that it’s all fantasy, and fantasies don’t really follow the usual laws of nature. However, that would be being too kind to a film, based on a 1970s TV show, that itself doesn’t value its good parts.
Somewhere off the American coast (there is a suggestion of Venezuela) is a picture-perfect island, with white sand, blue waters and cloudless skies, where an eccentric, presumably rich person called Mr Roarke (Peña) makes fantasises of winners of a contest he holds come true. After we have been treated to a scary night involving a blonde girl in a golden dress being carted away screaming, one glorious morning, Mr Roarke welcomes home five of his new guests.
With fantasies starkly different from each other, which they have expressed in their application entries, the five promise in one film – a high-school teen revenge fantasy, a war fantasy, a perfect love fantasy, and with two brothers born of different mothers (lending itself to some very silly jokes) a raunchy pool-side fantasy with drinks, drugs and bods in bikins and briefs.
It is a hard mix requiring sharp changes in tempo, and while some parts of it are good and others surprisingly competent, the others that lag pull the film down. The best thing going for it is the suggestion that one must be careful what one wishes for, particularly of what lies at the heart of those wishes. Like Melanie (Hale), who has since high school wanted to pay back the class bully, Sonja (Doubleday), in the same coin. When that is interpreted by the fantasy-creators of the island as strapping Sonja onto a chair and bloodily torturing her, Melanie is horrified.
If that track trots along nicely for a while, also delving into the power of apology vs revenge, Elena (Maggie Q) is uncertain when a boyfriend she regrets having turned down appears right back and, in the blink of an eye, a marriage and a daughter she has always longed for materialise. Does settling for this lie make the truth any better?
Had Wadlow stuck to these two strands, Fantasy Island may have been a better film. However in trying to bring the many knots together, it only ends up tying itself hopelessly in them. Eventually, it takes so many loops, including a detour into mystic, better-left-unexplained powers — while leaving enough threads hanging for a repeat — that it trips.
The whole premise of Fantasy Island is what would happen if people got second chances. The only good ending would be if the film didn’t get one.