Tuesday, March 3, 2020

freakboy on film: FANTASY ISLAND (2020)

"Once you begin a fantasy, you must see it through to its natural conclusion." - Mr. Roarke 


written by 
Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach & Jeff Wadlow 

                        directed by Jeff Wadlow 

A Friday ritual of mine is to call my small town's local theater to find out what's showing.  Yes, I could check the website, but listening to a recorded message is easier for me.  Anyhoo, I was startled when I heard FANTASY ISLAND was one of the three films listed.  I recalled hearing there was a big screen version of the classic series in the works, but I assumed it came and went and bombed long ago without a trace.  My inability to read Entertainment Weekly strikes again.

However, I didn't decide to catch a Sunday matinee right away.  It took a stroll by the theater with my sister to change my weekend plans of doing nothing.  I had my Mad Scientist Glasses with me and studied the poster.  My initial opinion was it appeared to be a trashy horror movie that I would skip, but then my sister read the cast list to me.  One name rang a bell.  Ryan Hansen, who played the annoying, offensive, and weirdly likable douchebag Dick Casablancas on the TV series (and film) VERONICA MARS.  Well, I then knew I was destined to book a flight to FANTASY ISLAND

$5 for a matinee is a steal.

In case you aren't familiar with the 1977-1984 series, the story setup is deceptively simple.  A group of guests arrive by plane to a beautiful island resort.  There they are greeted by Mr. Roarke, their distinguished host.  On this mysterious island, each guest lives out his or her fantasy and possibly learns a lesson or two along the way.

The guests arrive, but tragically not after a week aboard The Love Boat. 

The film, after what appears to be a trashy horror movie opening, settles into the basic premise of the series.  Five guests arrive by plane and are initially greeted by Mr. Roarke's assistant Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley).  After a cocktail social, Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña) escorts his guests to their respective fantasies.  Gwen (Maggie Q) wants a romantic do-over.  Patrick (Austin Stowell) wants to be a soldier.  Melanie (Lucy Hale) wants to confront a former school bully.  J.D. (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) simply want it all 

Mr. Roarke may be shorter now, but his fantasies are much bigger.

Now what can I say about FANTASY ISLAND without spoilers?  I will say that the different fantasies could have easily occurred in the series but they have something more here.  I will say it's easy to become emotionally invested in the characters thanks to the right mixture of wry and sincere acting..  I will say that, to my complete surprise, I really enjoyed this film.  

Me and the three other Sunday matinee attendees racing towards the best theater seat.

Yes, despite the plot teetering on a tightrope between trashy horror movie and trashing the original series, FANTASY ISLAND manages to keep its balance, never dipping too far into either side, and somehow works.  The 110 minutes moved right along with suspense, humor, mystery and maybe even a hint of romance.  Plus, and this surprised me even more, there is ultimately much respect for the original series.  I'm not saying it's the best film you're going to see this year, but it's an entertaining (and smarter than you might think) escape, which is what movies often do best.  

As for the reason that convinced me to see FANTASY ISLAND...
You can take Ryan Hansen out of Dick Casablancas , but you can never fully take Dick Casablancas out of Ryan Hansen, which is fine with me.

I couldn't find a good pic of J.D. but Dick Casablancas considers himself a fantasy island. 

In conclusion, maybe we should be more cinematically open-minded.  Sometimes a film we expect to be complete crap can truly surprise us.  It saddens me a bit that FANTASY ISLAND will probably go unseen by the masses.  Though I suppose crazy-obsessed, diehard fans of the original series may severely hate the film and should probably go see whatever the hell else is out right now.  Guess I better ask my sister to read Entertainment Weekly to me. ;) 

(If you desire spoilers, here is the IMDb page... https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0983946/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0 )

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind review.

Freak Out, 

P.S. A different movie that surprised me...
The Collective Eye for March is open!


  1. Fun review, John! I forgot this movie was out. I recall watching Fantasy Island as a kid, but I wouldn't say I was die-hard fan. Perhaps this new twist is just the ticket.

    1. Thanks, Barry!.
      I enjoyed the original series but I wasn't a die-hard fan either.
      Perhaps that's why I was ultimately open to this new

  2. Interesting review. I was never a huge Fantasy Island fan and this seemed like such a throwaway film that it was never on my radar. As you said, there is probably a lesson here about being open-minded.

    But now what I really need to know: afterwards did you take that movie ticket stub to Dairy Queen and get a free Blizzard? :D

    1. Thus film wasn't on my radar until I called the theater. I'm glad I did.

      To answer the most important question...yes! I ordered a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard! !