Blumhouse’s offering in 2020 is the “remake” (re-imagining) of the ’70’s long running hit “Fantasy Island.” While I agree that Michael Peña is no suitable replacement for Ricardo Montalban (and before we go any further, I will confess to being a mad fan of both the former and the latter actors) I don’t get all the hate for this film, as the Stephen Bishop character says in the film The Rundown, “Why all the hostility bro?”
Directed by Jeff Wadlow and written by Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach and the director, “Fantasy Island” has a motif of horror. To be fair, in watching old reruns of the old show, there were a fair few of those “fantasies” that were a bit close to the bone. And…some were downright scary. Just getting that out of the way.
Starring the brilliant Maggie Q, capable but spot on Lucy Hale, cold but creative Portia Doubleday, and the stunning Parisa Fitz-Henley, as well as two brilliant cameos by the versatile Michael Rooker and fiendish Kim Coates (Along with a bevy of other actors this reviewer has never heard of.) the film works well. It has the look and ambiance of the original television show while lacking the eternal elegance of Montalban’s take on Roarke.
Another significant change is the house. (I’ve seen the original one from the series. It is located in the Los Angeles Arboretum and looks exactly like it did in the television show. At least it did in 1977.) The new one is, apparently, mostly CG and consists of one “real” floor. While it is something to see, it lacks the style of the original, located in Arcadia, California.
The film starts with a blonde (Doubleday, best known for Mr Robot.) being stalked by a group of masked men. We then meet the guests, all five of them; although two are sharing the same fantasy. The film also trots out Roarke’s “assistant” and we move into the long disjointed segue into the multiple storyline.
Modern touches such as the addition of mobile phones and the internet, do not detract as much as the lack of elegance from this new imagining of Roarke. To be fair, there could not have been many actors who were capable of filling Montalban’s shoes. (An actor who could not only be so otherworldly, kindly and sophisticated as Roarke but could also chew up scenery like no one else as Khan in Star Trek’s Wrath of Khan.)
There are things that work. For example, using stars of television in the main parts, Hale; Pretty Little Liars, Doubleday: Mr Robot, Rooker, The Waking Dead, for example. It adds to the feeling that this could, in an alternative universe be part of the original show. Even the main plot, for all its holes, is simplistic enough to feel like a first cousin to the long running series.
To be fair, the worst thing about the entire movie is its similarity, in terms of underlying plot, to the animated feature Fantastic Island. For those who have never seen Daffy Duck’s film, the power of the island is all down to a wishing well. Not too far from the power of the Blumhouse feature and its island.
We are missing Tattoo, and his tiny cry of “Boss! The Plane! The Plane!” But for all the above complaints, there is a satisfying twist and each “fantasy” ends in a Gene Levitt fashion.Not too complicated but a tad darker than the television show.
This is not deep nor overly impressive. It is, however, an entertaining way to spend an hour and forty minutes. I would give this a 3.5 stars out of 5, if only because the choice of Peña was such a poor one. He is a very talented actor, but he is not Mr. Roarke.
Well worth the rental price of six bucks and the price of a microwave popcorn and coke.