What begins as a promising satire regarding Hollywood --- and all the B.S. according to writer/director/star Charlie Day --- FOOL’S PARADISE devolves into a non-so-funny movie about creating “a meaningful connection with another human being”. The cast reads like anyone’s idea of A-list actors and comedians, but like I’ve said too many times before --- it’s all about the writing.
Day, himself, is quite the comedic actor. His show, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, has been a huge hit, just wrapping its 16th season. But being successful in one medium doesn’t always translate to others. FOOL’S PARADISE is his directorial debut and Day has tried to model his first effort after older films like AIRPLANE! and BEING THERE. Unfortunately, it’s unlike either.
Starring as an unnamed mental patient who is unceremoniously dropped off on a city street in Los Angeles after his doctor informs him there are no funds to cover his treatment is the first example of satirical brilliance. Instead of getting the help he needs, this man gets cast in a movie because he’s a dead ringer for the lead actor, who won’t come out of his trailer.
A big-time producer (the late --- and always perfect --- Ray Liotta) espies him and substitutes him so the film can get finished. Because of a coffee order mix-up, Day’s character’s new name becomes Latte Pronto --- very funny. A down-on-his-luck publicist, Lenny (Ken Jeong), sees the potential in Latte, who doesn’t speak, and thinks he's found his big break.
More silliness ensues --- Latte marries his co-star, Christiana Dior (Kate Beckinsale), becomes best friends with his other co-star, the hot Chad Luxt (Adrien Brody), and acquires a super-agent (Edie Falco). Jason Sudeikis stars as Lux Tanner, a crazy director who is constantly calling upon his Hispanic housekeeper to perform menial tasks --- another stroke of satire genius.
Alas, maintaining that level of cleverness is difficult to be sure, and Day’s effort suffers because of it. As FOOL’S PARADISE wears on, the schtick of Latte not talking wears thin, as does Day’s screenplay --- and Jeong’s wailing and gnashing of teeth. When Latte’s career fizzles and dies, so does the comedy.
It's great to see Day reunited with Sudeikis and Jason Bateman, who plays an overly enthusiastic SPFX tech. They made HORRIBLE BOSSES together in 2011, then the sequel in 2014. HORRIBLE BOSSES is truly uproarious, with Day’s character fighting off a lecherous Jennifer Aniston as his boss. He has moments of excellence here, just not enough to sustain an entire film. And his buddies, the two Jasons, are clearly not given enough to do. Jeong, on the other hand, is over-utilized and wears out his welcome far too soon in FOOL’S PARADISE.
Opinion: Don’t Bother!
Based on the cast alone in FOOL’S PARADISE, written, directed and starring Charlie Day, expectations by Jeanne and me ran high that this would be very funny, if not hilarious. Unfortunately, it is neither. There are certainly brief moments of humor but not nearly enough throughout the film to consider this a top-notch comedy.
Accompanying Day in the story about a down-on-his-luck publicist who transforms an unknown and mute man into a star are Ken Jeong, Kate Beckinsale, Adrien Brody, Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Edie Falco and the late Ray Liotta. With talent like that how can a movie miss the mark? As Jeanne will note, it’s all about the writing. Despite re-doing a hefty percentage of his script and borrowing from films like the famous Peter Sellers’ vehicle BEING THERE, Day has not rendered a memorable screenplay.
Perhaps the gimmick of Day’s character Latte Pronto not speaking for virtually the entirety of the movie wears out its welcome. Maybe fans of the truly hilarious HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011), which co-starred Day, Sudeikis, Bateman and others like Colin Farrell, Donald Sutherland, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey, will anticipate a really strong picture. But they will be disappointed. While the movie is a parody of Hollywood productions, satires do require hearty laughs, too.
It just proves that star-studded “comedies” like FOOL’S PARADISE are not a guarantee of success. I would hesitate to rate this movie a “Don’t Bother” because of its star power. Simply watching the cast --- especially Jeong and Liotta --- go through their paces is enough to hold our interest, particularly with a running time of only 97 minutes. But just barely.
Opinion: Wait for VOD