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Written By:

Nick Spacek


Director Jeff Wadlow’s adaptation of the ’70s television series, Fantasy Island, for Blumhouse Productions, is just one of many feature film versions of fondly-remembered small screen entertainment. While most big-screen takes on television series go for a comedic or ironic touch – The Brady Bunch Movie, Charlie’s Angels, 21 Jump Street, et al – or straightforward take – The Addams Family, Star Trek, Maverick, and so on – it’s rare to see a darker take on the original iteration.

Thus, Fantasy Island‘s dark and twisted Twilight Zone-esque interpretation of the 1977 Ricardo Montalbán and Hervé Villechaize-starring drama is a rather unique film, in theory. While we’ve seen so many dark-and-gritty reboots on TV, it’s certainly an intriguing proposition to take a four-decade-old property and turn it into something creepy for the big screen.

Despite all this hullabaloo, the picture is basically fine. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly nowhere near as interesting as the premise makes it out to be. First and foremost, with the exception of Maggie Q’s Gwen Olsen, none of the characters exists as anything but broad sketches. Props to giving the film Jimmy O. Yang as Brax Weaver, an Asian character who is also gay, and also treating his desires and fantasies with just as much validity as those of his brother, J.D. (Hansen), but given that Hansen is essentially playing his Dick Casablancas character from Veronica Mars, that’s not much of a grand stroke for LGBTQ rights.

Overall, Fantasy Island plays out like an overlong version of a television pilot. It’s definitely a quarter of an hour minutes too long, with far more time given to most of the various characters’ fantasies than is resolutely necessary for the film as a whole, but not nearly enough time for anyone watching it to really care about anyone, outside of the J.D. and Brax or Gwen storylines. The Patrick Sullivan (Stowell) fantasy of being a soldier is particularly trite, and the story of Melanie Stole (Hale) is such a mess that the various red herrings only serve to make the ending an absolute wreck.

The less said of the magical stone at the root of everything, the better. While the film certainly manages to entertain, with some effective action sequences, Fantasy Island is just too bloated and circumscribed to ever land within the realm of creepy or hilarious. At best, it’s a diverting Cabin in the Woods knock-off, and at worst, it’s the horror version of Starsky & Hutch – a ’70s adaptation no one asked for, and no one wanted.

Nick Spacek

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