Movie review: TV drama 'Fantasy Island' gets a reboot as a horror flick

Fred Hawson

Posted at Feb 17 2020 12:40 PM

Michael Pena as Mr. Roarke (center) leads the cast of 'Fantasy Island.' Handout

I had known of the long-running television series "Fantasy Island" starring Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize (and his famous catchphrase "The plane, the plane!") but I never really had any interest to watch this series during its run from 1977-1984. I knew that it was like its contemporary TV series "The Love Boat" (which I watched) where there would be celebrity stars playing the guests on the island who paid a price to have their fantasies fulfilled. It was very surprising that Blumhouse actually thought of rebooting "Fantasy Island" as a horror film.

There were five people who won a contest to go on a vacation to Fantasy Island, a resort which promised its guests that one fantasy of their choice can become a reality. When their private plane landed on the dock of the island, they were welcomed and oriented by the mysterious host Mr. Roarke who reminded them that they should follow their fantasies to their conclusions, however they went. 

Stepbrothers JD and Brax had the desire to be surrounded by beautiful models who followed their sexual whims. Gwen wanted to turn back time to that moment when she rejected a man's wedding proposal. Patrick wanted to be a soldier in a war, to pay homage to his father who died a war hero. Melanie wanted to get even with Sloane Madison, a bully from high school who made her life since then a miserable existence. 

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Michael Pena felt miscast as Mr. Roarke almost throughout the film. It was only in his climactic scene that his portrayal made any sense at all. With the possible exception of Maggie Q who had a passable performance as Gwen, all the other actors in this film were all very awkward in their roles, most especially Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang (whose character Drax felt like a racial slur to me) as the immature Weaver brothers and Portia Doubleday as Melanie's high school tormentor Sloane . I remember Lucy Hale as the lead star of "Truth or Dare" and here she was quite over-the-top as the very insecure Melanie. 

The flow of this film followed the style and sequence of the recent film "Escape Room" (Adam Robitel, 2019). There were a number of apparent strangers who won a contest to participate in an activity where each one will have their own perilous adventure. 

Later on, there came a twist that, unbeknownst to them, these people were actually involved in one past event. They're being there all together in one place was not completely random after all, but was in fact the grand plan of one mastermind with a revenge on his mind. Once that became obvious, the rest of the final act simply became one big unsatisfactory mess. 

Even the final last-minute reference to the original series elicited a groan. This is as popcorn as they come.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."