Charlie Day’s directorial debut is a throwback to old school comedy with an all-star cast that doesn’t quite work.
Plot: A down-on-his-luck publicist gets his lucky break when he discovers a mute man recently released from a mental health facility looks just like a method actor who refuses to leave his trailer.
Review: Charlie Day’s directorial debut has had a long road to the big screen. Originally announced in 2018, Fool’s Paradise began as a project called El Tonto. After assembling an all-star cast, the pandemic forced the film into a hiatus which turned into rewrites by Day and, eventually, the filming of new scenes. The finished project boasts a massive cast of famous faces, including the late Ray Liotta, for a satirical look at Hollywood reminiscent of countless films from the 1960s and 1970s. With his sense of humor in the right place, Day makes a valiant effort in his debut behind the camera but falls short of delivering a consistent finished product.
When I started Fool’s Paradise, I was immediately reminded of one of my all-time favorite movies: Hal Ashby’s Being There, starring Peter Sellers. Like that film, Charlie Day’s comedy follows a simple-minded man who is swept up through a series of circumstances to become far more famous and respected than he ever expected to be. Where Being There mocks politics, Fool’s Paradise satirizes the Hollywood machine. From Method actors to rehab, paparazzi to superhero movies, everything is teased, mocked, and spoofed in this film. At the center of it all is Latte Pronto (Charlie Day), the mysterious vagrant who is susceptible to suggestion by anyone and somehow becomes one of the most famous actors in the world. Over the course of the film, Latte goes from star to has been while a cast of acclaimed actors appears in varying capacities throughout the story, with Ken Jeong appearing the most as the mute Latte’s publicist, Larry.
While Hollywood has always been game for making fun of itself, the satire in Fool’s Paradise is less biting than Robert Altman’s The Player, The Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink, or David Mamet’s State & Main. Charlie Day is more content to tell many jokes while allowing himself to emulate Peter Sellers, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton. Donning a stylish hat and mugging for the camera, Day glides through each scene as a silent performer who adopts the personality of those around him. Whether that be the party-hard lothario Chad Luxt (Adrien Brody), the sexy Christiana Dior (Kate Beckinsale), or the big-budget filmmaker Lex Tanner (Jason Sudeikis), Latte glides through each sequence with wide eyes and a smile. In fact, through the entire film, Day utters only a handful of lines, limiting the trademark voice we have come to love in his animated performances. Instead, Day allows all famous faces around him to do the heavy lifting, mostly mocking themselves and their industry.
Day called in every person he has worked with, including his It’s Always Sunny buddies Glenn Howerton, David Hornsby, Jimmi Simpson, and wife Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Horrible Bosses co-stars Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman, as well as icons like John Malkovich and Ray Liotta, as well as Edie Falco, Common, Travis Fimmel, Alanna Ubach, Dean Norris, Katherine McNamara and many more. From small cameos to substantial supporting roles, no single actor is afraid to mock themselves or the cast and crew they have worked with. The film’s narrative flow packs a lot into just over ninety minutes and often feels rushed to accommodate the full arc that Day had wanted to follow. This leads to joke after joke being played regardless of whether they work or not.
Fool’s Paradise is a collection of funny moments that play like Charlie Day, jotted down ideas for jokes in a notebook, and then filmed them all. The overall story is more of a loose narrative that connects standalone bits that serve as a mixtape of the filmmaker’s comedy influences. Several moments are beautifully shot and hint at Day’s blossoming talents as a director. It is surprising that this is his debut, as Day has not used the long-running It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as a training ground to build his directorial experience. Day does get some excellent performances from Ray Liotta and Kate Beckinsale, as well as an earnest musical score from Jon Brion. Fool’s Paradise may not be a massive hit or end up on anyone’s radar in the long run, but it is impressive in other ways.
While Charlie Day does make a valiant effort as a triple threat in this film, he does not quite stick the landing. The final act of Fool’s Paradise is the weakest part of the movie and overshadows a lot of highlights in the first two-thirds of the film. It is very apparent that this movie was a passion project for Day and that he took everyone willing to appear in his project and didn’t want to waste any of their presence. Fool’s Paradise could have used tighter writing that would have accented the satire more than the silly jokes. This movie is peppered with funny moments that showcase Day’s directorial career potential. At the very least, this movie has its heart in the right place, even if it doesn’t quite bring it all together to amount to more than a fun diversion.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/fools-paradise-review/