"Monster Island" is worth a look if you're interested in a ludicrously campy flashback to giant bug movies of the 1950s and 1960s, but updated for the MTV generation. The cast is headlined by the late, great Adam West, Carmen Electra, and former Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, though Daniel Letterle as Josh and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Maddy are the main sources of drama. The setup is that a high school class wins a trip to an island in the Bermuda Triangle (!) to see Carmen Electra, and the stereotypes fly. Carmen begins her awful concert (sponsored by MTV...you remember: the network that formerly showed music videos?) and her concert is immediately interrupted by a 25-foot long red-eyed flying ant, which totes Carmen away in its hideous mandibles. This is worth the price of the movie by itself.
An electrical storm cuts all power and communications from the island, so the resourceful teens are on their own. Josh turns from shy introvert to powerful and popular leader, and a small and loyal cadre attempts to rescue Carmen. Maddy (Josh's ex-girlfriend) drags her bloviating politician of a new boyfriend, Chase (Chris Harrison), with them to help Josh. MTV is there to film it all (hey, it's better than most of their shows nowadays), and please be sure not to miss the hilarious scene where the MTV camera operator blathers on about journalistic integrity! Also note the giant praying mantis (Who knew that praying mantises can't swim? But they can fly, right...?) In the middle of all this Chase goes fishing and hooks something that looks like it's half Sleestak and half Creature From the Black Lagoon. Adam West saves the kids from the Sleestak with a shotgun. In the film's most amusing nod to cinema history, West is playing Dr. Harryhausen from the Department of Atomic Energy. (Be sure to watch the extras to learn about the Harryhausenesque stop-motion techniques used in this film.)
After we see Adam West give a hilarious soliloquy on dirty dishes, he introduces his pet fungus, Rudy, which immediately attacks Josh's awful little sister. Rudy is a genetic cross between a predatory fungus and a horseshoe crab, and he's in heat, which explains the aggression. It's clear that Adam has been isolated too long and is going bonkers, but he reveals that the kids have to escape because the island is going to sink! Maddy suddenly becomes a shaman or something because of a necklace she found in the forest. ("My heart! It beats of the ancient drums!") After the Bulldozer vs. Praying Mantis smackdown, Chase is revealed to be the coward we all knew he'd turn out to be and Maddy breaks up with him, seriously intoning this ripe passage of dialogue: "I sever all ties with you! Speak to me no more!"
After the development of some extremely humorous improvised weapons, the bad guys (i.e. Chase and the conniving MTV camerawoman) try to flee, but end up in a web of deceit, complete with hilarious spider. It turns out the entire mountain is a giant anthill, and the Queen Ant (the flying one) has human slaves to gather giant fruit for the ant colony. Adam and the good kids are on a mission to hunt her down, and discover that Carmen is fine but is being forced to sing against her will to control the slaves! Because Maddy found the necklace it turns out she's the queen of the human slaves. She's a fierce warrior who can suddenly speak their totally invented native language, and inspires the revolution against the ants and a war of karate vs. pincers ensues.
The rescue boat is as funny as anything else in the movie, and although Adam West heroically sacrifices himself blowing up the Queen Ant, he gives his pet fungus to a girl to be rescued with the good kids. Fortunately Nick Carter's helicopter just happens to get lost (it is the Bermuda Triangle after all) and finds and rescues them all! Just as the island explodes, Carmen Electra cuddles with the fungus, making this one of the greatest endings in film history.
The special features are worth watching. The trailer is OK, but "The Magic of Monster Island" is very good. There are excellent discussions of the stop-motion and puppetry methods used to capture the authentic monster movie feel, which made me appreciate the movie more for what they were trying to do than the sum product of the film itself. There are also some interviews. Adam West's interview is fun, Carmen Electra's is merely OK, and writer/director Jack Perez is very interesting as he discusses the old '50s monster movies this is a lighthearted homage to.
"Monster Island" isn't a record-breaking work of art by any means, but it does have its own unique charm: it's campy, thematically true to the genre, uses great non-CGI effects liberally, and is just fun to watch. If you're a fan of the giant creatures genre of 1950s sci-fi, this is a pleasant way to spend an evening.