'Fool's Paradise' review: Charlie Day’s satire of Hollywood is no laughing matter
Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
Charlie Day has amassed plenty of goodwill over the years, having found immense comedic success thanks to his long-running series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and memorable turns in films “Horrible Bosses” and “Monsters University.” In his directorial debut, “Fool’s Paradise,” an unfunny satire about Tinseltown and its habitants, the likable comedian has called in plenty of favors. The cast is stacked with familiar faces and A-list cameos, including former “Bosses” co-stars Jason Sudeikis, and Jason Bateman, but also Kate Beckinsale, Adrien Brody, Edie Falco, Common, John Malkovich, and the late Ray Liotta were somehow convinced to tag along for the ride. Not in recent memory have I seen an ensemble this credible get wasted so erroneously.
A bizarre set-up from the start: “Fool’s Paradise” opens with an obnoxious film publicist named Lenny (Ken Jeong) lurking on the studio lot for his next (and first) client. Lucky for him, a producer (Ray Liotta – the only salvageable performance in the film) has just stumbled upon a homeless man (Day), recently released from a mental institution, who could stand in for a major, self-entitled movie star (that’s also played by Day). This idea that anyone can be plucked from obscurity and become a star might be funny if it hadn’t been done several times prior (remember the Steve Martin/Eddie Murphy gem “Bowfinger?”).
Even though the homeless man never utters a single word and takes zero direction, his amicable charm and Charlie Chaplin-esq persona registers him an overnight success. Everyone thinks he’s brilliant despite not doing anything of merit and, in another unfunny running gag that becomes the bane of my existence, Liotta’s angry producer, in an expletive fueled rage, accidentally dubs the silent actor “Latte Pronto” and we’re stuck hearing it for eternity.
That’s about as insightful as “Fool’s Paradise” gets before floundering into humorless bits where Day’s celebrity entourage play everything from directors to prop hands to gold digging wives. The writer-director takes easy stabs at the superhero genre with the making of a film called “Mosquito Boy,” and the ineptitude of industry vets mistaking cluelessness for talent. But it’s hard to believe any of the characters in this movie would think Latte Pronto is this savior of Hollywood let alone an actor who could headline major franchises. If that’s the joke, the writers need to stop ripping off the Hal Ashby classic “Being There” and come up with new material.
Aside from seeing Liotta in one of his final roles, and Day playing against type (the overbearing man child), “Fool’s Paradise” is a meaningless farce that fails at breaking new ground where others have often succeeded. The title suits itself, but for all the wrong reasons.
FOOL’S PARADISE is now playing in theaters.