2020 Reviews

Fantasy Island Isn’t Actually That Bad

During its opening weekend I caught Fantasy Island, or rather, Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, just in case you somehow get it confused with the 1970s-80s television show. After seeing it I was honestly a little surprised by the incredibly low score on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Is it shallow? Yeah. Was it supposed to be? Possibly. Does it sometimes appear to lack focus? Yes. Does that sometimes make it more interesting? Also yes.

I’ve noticed a trend over the years that when a movie is hated or highly disliked, critics will take it and run with it (think Cats). There’s also a good chance they’ll pretend to hate it more than they probably do. Hate generates clicks. Passionate love, casual admiration, or even indifference does not. It’s probably why “cancel culture” has become a thing. You gotta love film journalism these days.

Is Fantasy Island one of the worst movies ever? No. I don’t understand critics’ fascination with movies being the worst movie they’ve ever seen beyond the fact it gets more clicks. I’ve seen far worse movies than Fantasy Island. One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in the theater is Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) and it certainly isn’t close to being that bad.

There are a few issues with Fantasy Island that I’ve seen consistently pop up with reviews. Its tone is one of them. Like I addressed at the start of the review, it does seem to lack focus. It’s hard to figure out what kind of movie it wants to be and it seems to want to be everything. For example, it wants to be a comedy, a romance, and a horror. The tone does shift often, but I never found it too jarring.

The movie shifts tones when it switches between each character’s fantasy, which makes sense. Maggie Q’s character Gwen wants a second chance with a former boyfriend so her fantasy is romantic. Randall, played by Austin Stowell, wants to play soldier so his fantasy is Predator-esque. When you have each character have a different fantasy it’s not an outlandish approach to have them dictate the tone of the scene and have that tone change from scene to scene based off of the fantasy. I think that from a viewing standpoint the movie is more interesting because of that because it’s an approach that we don’t see often. With that being said, I don’t think it works well in terms of the movie flowing effortlessly.

Yeah, there are some lame jokes in there (i.e. holograms), but they aren’t any dumber than other PG-13 jokes from horror movies. I fail to see anything here that Fantasy Island does worse than other movies from its genre that warrants it being hated as much as it was. One thing they actually do better is I think the backstories for the characters’ fantasies are slightly more complex than I expected from a PG-13 horror. Besides that, most of the other aspects of the film vary from mediocre to slightly below mediocre. I thought the ending was lame, therefore bad, but that’s the only thing that comes to mind right now with anything being outright bad. Fantasy Island‘s foremost problem is that it’s shallow and forgettable like many PG-13 horrors these days.

I started writing this review two weeks ago for my initial thoughts of the film. At that time critics were talking about how this was one of the worst movies they had ever seen and everyone was hating on it for fun. Now, a week later, no one cares anymore. I don’t know if this says more about people’s love to hate on things they don’t truly hate for impressions or if it shows how fast the news cycle is. Or maybe it’s a result of how forgettable Fantasy Island actually is.

If everyone has already stopped talking about it more than a week after its release, was it really that bad?


2010-19 Reviews 2019 Reviews

Cats is NOT the Worst Movie You’ll Ever See, But it’s Not Great

Well… Cats surely is something.

It’s very easy to pick on Cats and everyone has stormed the Internet in masses to do so ever since the first trailer aired many months prior to its release. At the time, I had held out hope that Cats was going to be a good movie. Tom Hooper directed Les Miserables (2012) and that was very good, so maybe this would be too. Cats seemed to have potential. The trailer, although not perfect, showed some promise and was enhanced by Jennifer Hudson’s powerful voice.

The hate coming from the first trailer could be attributed to its somewhat new technological approach (cats, but with human faces!) which made it easily meme-able for Internet trolls and other people farming for impressions. And people wonder why Hollywood never tries anything new. However, leading up to its release, like Dolittle (2020), the more dialogue you started to see from the movie, the worse it looked. Therefore, when the movie was finally released and critically panned, it didn’t come as much as a surprise to me. What I wonder though is, if it was actually good, average, or even intended for a very, very small audience to be enjoyed, would the hate had still been there because it’s so easy to make fun of and hating things is the Internet’s favorite pastime? I guess we’ll never know…

Cats has many, many problems and it deserved the criticism it deserved. I’m not denying that, but there are some good moments in it. Cats isn’t the total dumpster file you were led to believe. Sure, the first thirty minutes might be the worst thirty minutes of a movie I’ve seen in a long time, but the film is not all bad.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many things done so bad and so well in one movie. They had high quality actors and some of them give poor performances. Cats signifies a career low for James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellan, and Ray Winstone. The only actors who come out fully unscathed (in my opinion) are Francesca Hayward and Jennifer Hudson. Most of the musical numbers and songs are lame, but there are two that are compelling and one that is a blast. Francesca Haywood singing “Beautiful Ghosts (Victoria’s Song” (a song that deserved an Oscar nomination more than other songs nominated this year) and Jennifer Hudson singing “Memory” are the emotional high points of the movie. Steven McRae singing and tap-dancing “Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat” is just pure fun. Third, for the most part, the visual effects are very impressive, but there are other times they look awful.

Just to keep it simple, some of the actors are good, but most of them give performances below their talent. The visual effects are great the majority of the time and bad all the other times. I guess you could say consistency is the main problem for Cats. I think Tom Hooper may have bitten off more than he could chew in regards to how much time he had to make the film and the amount of money he was allotted. It’s possible that the technology to make Cats is not yet at the level it needed to be to fulfill Hooper’s vision. Nevertheless, I respect him for taking a risk.

I find it hard to understand how Cats is even a compelling musical because although Cats feels like a film and not a recording of stage performance, the film still feels very theatrical. This is partially due to the difficulty – I’m sure – of the visual effects for the settings as well as the actors themselves, but even as a film it feels very much like watching a play, which doesn’t work for it. Cats does have its moments and breaks from its minimal locations, but the story, performances, and conversations that take place are not compelling enough to sustain its low number of settings.

Yeah, Cats is bad, but it’s not the worst movie you’ll ever see. At the end of the day, at least we got to see Hayward and Hudson sing, as well as Steven McRae dancing and singing along railway tracks.