The hit TV series goes rogue in this thrilling adaptation that has loads of twists and turns and very unexpected results.
A contest has resulted in a group of people winning a chance to live out their fantasies at Mr. Roarke’s Fantasy Island. After a meet and greet with Mr. Roarke and his personal assistant Julia, the group is ready to begin living out their fantasies. The group includes Melanie, a young woman who was bullied for years from a long-time school rival; Patrick, an ex-cop who is looking for confidence by living out a military fantasy; brothers Brax and J.D., who the former has had it rough since coming out to his parents and finds him a crutch to the latter; and Gwen, a woman who wants a family.
Melanie sees herself finding what she thinks is a hologram of her bully in a chair. However, she soon learns the bully, Sloane, is real and she decides to help her escape when she is tortured by a monstrous man. Patrick’s fantasy becomes a total shock to him when he learns one of the fellow soldiers may be his father, who died in combat years ago. Brax and JD are living the high life on a getaway with models galore. As for Gwen, she gets a husband and a daughter. However, things soon get very strange and dangerous as these peoples’ fantasies soon become nightmares. They must figure out why and why Mr. Roarke would do such a thing.
Adapting a hit television series to films can be a tricky thing. They have to be done right and if the producers are going to reinvent, do it right. While adapting TV series have been mainly comedies such as the successful 21 Jump Street and the moderate Starsky and Hutch and not too great CHiPs, after the release of the reinvented horror film The Banana Splits Movie, we are now treated to a big-screen adaptation of the 1977-1984 series. Sadly, there is no Tattoo (yet I could have seen Peter Dinklage possibly considering what we’re dealing with here), but this is not as bad as one would think.
Michael Peña’s Mr. Roarke may seem to lack the charm of his TV counterpart, the late great Ricardo Montalban. However, it is perhaps because in this reinvention, we see that he harbors something dark and unlike the TV series, we do learn more about Roarke and as to why he found this particular island. Instead of Tattoo, we have personal assistant Julia, played by Parisa Fitz-Henley. Since there is no Tattoo, they went with the 1981-1982 arc with a character named Julie. Julia is a more sympathetic character as opposed to Roarke, who at first is happy to see his guests happy until he goes more monotonous as the film goes on.
However, the focus is more on the guests’ fantasies. Maggie Q’s Gwen is at first happy to receive the engagement she regretted turning down and suddenly finds herself with a daughter, which proves a bit shocking. Austin Stowell’s Patrick does a military fantasy to give himself the self-confidence he needs. What he discovers in his fantasy is quite shocking as well. As for step-brothers and BFFs Brax and J.D., Jimmy O. Yang and Ryan Hansen are at times annoying, but once their fantasy takes a drastic turn, that’s when Yang amps up and proves to be a stronger person considering his character.
As for Lucy Hale’s Melanie, she goes from exacting revenge on her bully to actually helping her in numerous attempts to escape the island from some big monster who looks like a cross between Bane and WWE wrestler Glenn Jacobs’ turn as Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS (before his iconic run as “Kane”). Originally it was Dave Bautista set to play the enigmatic Damon, who warns the guests about the island’s true nature. However, he would be replaced by his Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Michael Rooker, who once again shows why he is one of the biggest underrated actors out there.
Fantasy Island is not a completely bad adaptation of the hit TV series. While it reinvents the series as a horror-thriller, the only flaw comes in the character of Mr. Roarke, as he tends to be more monotonous than anything. However, the overall idea of strength within characters is seen here and despite a few ridiculous moments, this may not be a great film, but it is a decent film overall.
WFG RATING: C+
Columbia Pictures presents a Blumhouse production. Director: Jeff Wadlow. Producers: Jason Blum, Marc Toberoff, and Jeff Wadlow. Writers: Jeff Wadlow, Chris Roach, and Jillian Jacobs; based on the television series created by Gene Levitt. Cinematography: Toby Oliver. Editing: Sean Albertson.
Cast: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Austin Stowell, Lucy Hale, Jimmy O. Yang, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker, Portia Doubleday, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Charlotte McKinney, Mike Vogel, Kim Coates, Evan Evagora, Robbie Jones, Ian Roberts.