Just how dire is Hollywood’s dependence on intellectual property? The “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie wasn’t even this week’s most desperate plan to bring an old brand into multiplexes. Note that rebooting ABC’s “Fantasy Island” for the large screen was an inherently bad idea — the 1977 television show’s “‘Twilight Zone’ in paradise” vibe is usually sunny and evergreen — but there’s a true whiff of desperation to the way that Blumhouse has dusted it off, and this slapdash programmer is such an entire shrug of a movie that it feels almost defiantly apathetic from the instant it starts. Dumb in ways in which range from inane to insulting, but always growing duller by the minute, this new “Fantasy Island” is merely a couple of minutes old before your greatest wish is to be watching literally anything.
So there’s an island (played by Fiji, within the film’s best performance). And fantasies come true there. But — and here’s the catch! — people got to take care of what they want for. Aladdin learned that lesson, Brendan Fraser in “Bedazzled” learned that lesson, and now a bunch of attractive television stars is getting to learn that lesson or die trying. The movie is off and running before anyone can even shout “The plane! The plane!,” as five contest winners promptly land in paradise for a occupy a mysterious resort that they examine on Reddit (if you think that this isn’t a movie that ends with one among the survivors joking that they’re getting to leave a nasty review on Yelp, you’re wrong).
Gwen (Maggie Q, acquitting herself well), is that the closest thing the movie has got to a lead character, and it’s clear that she wants something from the experience that a traditional vacation couldn’t provide. Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) and JD Weaver (Ryan Hansen), on the opposite hand, are step-brothers who seem to require something that you simply could probably arrange at a Club Med: Namely, to party with beautiful people in swimsuits (“this doesn’t suck,” JD mistakenly observes upon arriving at the hotel). The movie lucks into its funniest moment when the island grants these boys their ultimate fantasy, and therefore the very first thing we see is… someone jet-skiing during a swimming bath. Every “Lost” has its Nikki and Paulo, I suppose. Bringing up the rear are wannabe soldier Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell, burdened with a melodramatic backstory this movie has no thanks to supporting), and therefore the ultra-horny Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale), who wears such a lot eye shadow that it’s like she smeared the Smoke Monster everywhere her face (in fairness, there seems to be a reason for this). When it comes time for the guests to seek out their rooms, Melanie tells Patrick that he can “bung-a-LOW” together with her. That’s about as clever as this “Fantasy Island” gets. Of course, all of those characters have their secrets — Melanie most of all — and it’s only a matter of your time before the island’s enigmatic Oz figure manages to show them.
his name, of course, is Mr. Roarke, and Michael Peña’s full-bore Ricardo Montalbán impression is nearly reason enough for this movie to exist. “Anything and everything is feasible here,” he tells his guests, repeating a mantra that screenwriters Jillian Jacobs, Chris Roach, and Jeff Wadlow (who also directed the film) apparently struggled to internalize when reconceiving “Fantasy Island.” regardless of how low your expectations, it’s hard to forgive a movie about boundless imagination for not having one new idea. Which isn’t to mention that the script doesn’t offer a couple of unexpected riffs on some old ones. Playing Melanie’s high school bully, “Mr. Robot” star Portia Doubleday provides the foremost curious wrinkle and breaks open this reboot’s increasingly unintelligible rules whilst she forces alongside its asinine revenge plot. It’s rare to ascertain such an intricate mythology at adding a movie that seems like it’s just making stuff up because it goes along, and while it’s intriguing to think about how one person’s fantasy is usually located inside another person’s nightmare — which our world only works if we all consider to the compromises of real-world — this tossed-off genre exercise doesn’t have the gumption to follow through on its “Inception”-like approach to human desire. (It does, however, have a really confused-looking Michael Rooker as a renegade who shows up with a machete whenever a scene is just too lifeless to be salvaged the other way.) Having said that, the genre that “Fantasy Island” exists inside is up for debate, as Wadlow’s direction struggles to choose the proper tone. or maybe a tone. Half-assed jump scares punctuate a couple of brainless action beats because the movie is pulled between PG-13 horror and therefore the quite stringy psychothrillers that were made for teens who needed somewhere dark to form out (“Swimfan” involves mind); like raw dough that’s stretched too thin to even put within the oven, Wadlow’s film doesn’t split the difference between modes such a lot because it sags between them. Between the blood that drips from the ceiling and therefore the steroidal torturer who stalks the cast across the island, you’ll feel that the film is wanting to shake loose from its source material and embrace the thought that violent delights have violent ends, but the finished product is entombed by the play mechanics it inherited from the first. By the time this “Fantasy Island” arrives at its gallingly stupid final twist, you’ll be dying to travel home.