Fantasy Island (**1/2) almost comes true

Fantasy Island – 2020

Director Jeff Wadlow
Screenplay Jeff Wadlow, Chris Roach, Jillian Jacobs
Starring Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Jimmy O. Yang, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker, Parisa Fitz-Henley

Fantasy Island takes the premise of the original series starring Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize and creates a PG-13 style mystery with which Blumhouse is becoming increasingly identifiable. It’s not bad, if you don’t count the acting from everyone except Michael Peña and Maggie Q. The plot is labyrinthian enough that it never quite qualifies as predictable. It’s also not complex enough to be interesting.

The story starts with a group of “winners” who filled out some paperwork after getting a free trip to an island where “money doesn’t mean anything” and your wish comes true, for better or worse.

If this were a story where everything turned out just fine, we wouldn’t see Jason Blum in the producer’s role, nor would Lucy Hale be anywhere on screen. It takes some time for things to begin to unravel. When they do, they don’t necessarily all break in the same general direction.

The best thing about the film is the splintering of the plot. The fantasies are different enough for each of the group, we don’t see the strings holding the plot together until well into the third act.

The result is a mixed bag. There are no real winners here besides Maggie Q’s curious Gwen Wilson. The film is worth a watch just to see her work through her emotions, and then through the threads of the story to bring it to a whole.

In the role as Mr. Rourke, Peña keeps his cards close to the vest through act 2. By the time we see behind the curtain, some of that mystery is gone. Not enough to give him nothing to work with, but enough to take the teeth out of the story.

The two teenage girls I was with love this film. It is more than enough for one whose range of experience with movies is less jaded and more exuberant. For this viewer, it’s an average trip, less remarkable than pleasant.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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