Ultimately, this is the “Tattoo” origin story. It just takes far too long to find that out. This is a low budget reimagining of the 1978 TV show by the same name that ran for an unbelievable six years. Launching off of the even more unbelievable success of The Love Boat’s eventual ten years at sea, this represents a dry period in the history of television, despite the vast waters that surrounded each show. Both ran concurrently with the long-running comedy game show Hollywood Squares. These were simpler times, and the shows all provided a home for minor celebrities of the day.
Mister Roarke is back, but instead of the suave and sophisticated Ricardo Montalban, we now have the rather sleepy and thuggish looking Michael Peña who has played Ponch in the movie version of CHIPS and Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena in the Netflix series Narcos. He does an adequate job with the script but is unconvincing as the docent of a living island with magical powers. He is clearly bored and feeling trapped.
Blumhouse Productions has fun along the way, imbuing this fun and harmless concept with enough creepy horror and effects to satisfy the bloodlust of their usual fans. In the opening credits a distorted sampling of the original Fantasy Island theme can be heard. The classic phrase, “The plane, the plane” is repeated several times in case you don’t immediately understand the filmmaker’s humorous new approach.
Of course, a seaplane full of eager victims arrives at the island hoping to live out their deepest fantasy, as expressed in a single page letter to Mr. Roarke. He has been busily preparing the Island to receive the guests and programing each scenario to “play out to its full conclusion.” Well, that’s kinda sinister! And sure enough, the fantasies all turn into nightmares and begin to intertwine with each other in a completely confusing manner. No, it’s not pretend, and yes, you can die on Fantasy Island.
But then, you may at some point just be dying to get into your car and go home. But wait, the big reveal is at the very end of the film. I won’t spoil it here, but unless you’ve been missing Herve Villechaize for almost two hours, it’s okay if you miss it.
I’ve recently been informed that Roger Ebert never told people NOT to see a film, out of respect for the significant effort it takes to get a movie produced and released. But seriously, if you need a few groceries or some gas for your car, your money would be better spent on either of those tangibles. And I’m not Roger Ebert, I'm your friend.
Fantasy Island (2020) runs too long and is rated PG-13
Should I see this movie?