Fantasy Island the TV series was a drama that saw Ricardo Montalban as a man in charge of a magical island where people's dreams came true. Fantasy Island the movie is a horror film that sees Michael Pena as a man in charge of a magical island where terrible things happen to largely terrible people. As reinventions go, it's maybe not the worst idea in the world. However, based on the critical response, the actual movie itself may have been the worst idea in the world.
Reviews for Fantasy Island only went live this morning, which is not a good sign considering the movie opened in wide release today. However, when you look at the reviews, it becomes obvious why nobody was in a hurry to get them out. The movie is bad, it's pretty much universally agreed to be awful. CinemaBlend's Eric Eisenberg gave the movie 1.5 stars, and says the plot is utterly lacking in anything resembling creativity.
There is no challenge or creativity in the storytelling, just a series of shortcuts that are needed to get to a totally telegraphed twist (which still manages to be unearned when reflecting on the details).
The Fantasy Island movie focuses on a collection of characters who have all come to the island for their own variety of reasons, wanting to live out a fantasy with a variety of motives. However, each fantasy turns into a nightmare. If that feels sort of obvious and predictable, then it's no surprise that this movie is being reviewed as being obvious and predictable.
Big screen adaptations of small screen concepts are nothing new. We've seen dozens of them. Of course, they frequently have trouble capturing whatever it was that made the series popular. The Wrap thinks that Fantasy Island probably should have stayed on the small screen, as this idea might have been salvageable as an ongoing series...
If this new movie were a pilot for a TV reboot, it would come off as overwrought and underwritten but still possibly on the right track for a revived anthology series. As a movie, those flaws are magnified to the size of the silver screen.
This really seems like it's going to be one of those movies where film critics compete to see who can land the best zinger. The Los Angeles Times, I have to say, might have the last word on that however...
The movie can only be classified as something truly terrible, escaping any other categorization that would make it resemble an actual film.
Is there anything good to say about Fantasy Island? Well, the AV Club seems to think the movie might fall into the "so bad it's good" classification, like something to be seen at a midnight showing after you've had too much to drink. It's not supposed to be a comedy, but that's part of why it's so funny.
Thriller framework aside, Fantasy Island probably works best as a comedy. At least when it's not trying to be one.
Which is not to say that there aren't a few reviews that are technically classified as "good." As of this writing, there are exactly four positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, of the 20 currently posted. Even those reviews are fairly lukewarm if we're being honest. They run the gamut from "what exactly were you expecting?" to "dumb fun." Polygon sums up the technically positive reviews nicely, admitting the movie isn't, strictly speaking "good" but...
Still, is there anything really wrong with hanging semi-competent entertainment on a great hook, then selling it to bored teenagers?
I suppose, if you keep your expectations low, Fantasy Island might meet them, but that seems like the only scenario in which the movie won't simply be terrible.