Monday 17 February 2020

Fantasy Island (2020) - Movie Review

Jeff Wadlow just continues striking out these days. I mean, when trailers for this film first reached cinemas, as soon as I saw this guy’s name attached, my expectations for it nosedived pretty much instantly. I’d say the dude is in the middle of a slump, but to be honest, I question if he even had a high point in the first place. Between True Memoirs Of An International Assassin, Truth Or Dare, and even his earliest feature-length outing with the embarrassingly twee Cry Wolf, he gives the impression of someone desperately trying to find his niche through attempting just about anything he can get his hands on, only for the end result to truly bring out his ‘master of none’ status. And oh boy, does that come to a head with his latest.

The cast doesn’t give much hope for this either. Michael Peña as Mr. Roarke genuinely tries to match Ricardo Montalban’s continental suaveness, but he only ends up serving as the focal point for just how badly this film’s understanding of the original show turns out. Maggie Q, Truth Or Dare survivor Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, and even Jimmy O. Yang and Ryan Hansen attempting a do-over on their buddy act schtick from Like A Boss, are all characters in that they have personalities traits but not a whole lot else. They exist as the plot requires them to so, on top of there being little to no cohesion in their actions from scene to scene, mustering up a fuck to give about their place in the story is more effort than it’s worth. Them all being different flavours of unlikeable doesn’t help.

With this film’s place as a feature-length version of an old TV show, the scripting both makes sense in how it turned out while also being wholly mishandled. Through the guests of the titular island, we get a variety of different fantasies to serve as the intertwining plot threads. A lot of them revolve around abating their own regrets from the past or just fulfilling a personal want, but despite the film’s attempts to congeal all of these threads together, the tone couldn’t possibly be more all-over-the-place.

From domestic tragedy to revenge thriller to war drama to party-gone-wrong caper that looks like it was shot by David LaChappelle, the film keeps yanking the audience between all these different moods without any care for efficacy or engagement. It goes beyond feeling like a bunch of separate TV episodes stapled together, as these don’t even feel like they come from the same show.

It is almost kind of impressive just how lame this thing is, even when taken piece by piece, and it really highlights how little of an idea Jeff Wadlow had in making this whole affair work. In the horror scenes, the sound design and Bear McCreary’s soundtrack do substantially more to create tension and/or atmosphere than his way with visuals or even actors manage. When it suddenly decides to be an action movie, largely when it comes to Stowell’s cop who wants to play soldier and Yang/Hansen's “I want to have it all” blank slate wish fulfillment, it’s so bereft of a pulse that the sudden injection of zombies into the story basically turns the whole thing into a really lacklustre Call Of Duty custom map. And no, literally name-dropping Call Of Duty in the dialogue doesn’t make that effect any more acceptable.

The closest I can get to giving this film props is in how it tries to tie all of the guests’ fantasies together, specifically by tying them to a single past incident and their actions within it. However, while some of the textual sinew shows a modicum of potential, the end result feels like Saw run-off. Actually, scratch it; it feels more like Escape Room run-off, meaning we’re dealing with a watered-down version of an already watered-down version of something else. It shows. Add to that just how woeful the pacing is, where the bulk of the film is undercooked until they shove all the plot into its final act, and the whole thing turns out to be a gigantic mess.

Even knowing Wadlow’s range of competency going into this, I’m honestly quite taken aback at just how dreadful this is. All of the elements here that are even remotely interesting or compelling remained stuck in the back of my head, nagging at me that I rationally should like this movie more than I do.

But alas, even as a Saw apologist, there is nothing I can see in here that is worth sitting through, nor entertaining enough to excuse just how nightmarishly convoluted the story ultimately is. This has Wadlow teaming up again with two of the three co-writers of Truth Or Dare, and honestly, this might be even worse than that effort. Wadlow had better get used to his place as one of Blumhouse’s least necessary collaborators, or he should get wise to the fact that so-bad-it’s-good laughter is the most he can hope for in terms of positive reception.

No comments:

Post a Comment