Charlie Day skewers Hollywood in an absurdist satire with an all-star cast. Fool’s Paradise mercilessly mocks every rung in the filmmaking ladder to fame and fortune. He plays double duty as a released mental health patient who just happens to be a dead ringer for a problematic movie star. The comedic rub is that Day literally says nothing (in a plot that feels extremely reminiscent of the Jerry Lewis film, The Bellboy, or even Being There). The hapless protagonist can only mimic movement while being knocked around Tinsel Town like a human piñata. Day gets points for being clever, but the comedy shtick runs out steam. Laughter dissipates as a promising first act goes nowhere.
Lenny (Ken Jeong), a hack publicist who chugs energy drinks nonstop, sits in a café trying to keep his only client. He’s fired for having no contacts or industry clout whatsoever. Lenny reverts back to his old routine of trying to sneak into a big studio lot. Meanwhile, at a mental hospital, the psychiatrists marvel at an odd patient (Day) with no name, records, or associations of any kind. He’s a cheery fellow who does everything as instructed, like an obedient dog. They dump him on LA’s skid row because that’s the protocol for poor people.
The Producer (Ray Liotta) screams into his phone while driving his Porsche. He can’t believe his eyes — an indigent man on the roadside selling oranges with undocumented immigrants is the doppelganger of Sir Thomas Billingsley, his A-list lead of “Billy the Kid,” who has been a nightmare to work with. The Producer grabs the confused patient and races to the set.
The Accidental Actor
The cast and crew is relieved to have any replacement. Co-stars Christiana Dior (Kate Beckinsale) and Chad Luxt (Adrien Brody), method actors chewing chaw in costume, are instantly taken by the silent wonder. Filming progresses with the Producer demanding his “latte pronto!” Lenny bumps into the accidental actor as the espresso with steamed milk is delivered. Latte Pronto (Day) has found the publicist to guide his skyrocketing career.
Christiana quickly becomes enamored and must be romantically involved with such a raw talent. Chad indoctrinates Latte in the bad boy life of cars, booze, drugs, and women. Latte, now housed in a studio mansion, suddenly has an agent, business manager, stylist, and slavish intern.
Day, who also writes and directs his feature debut, plays Latte as purely reactionary to the ridiculous. He doesn’t utter a word but is heralded for staring at the camera and breaking the fourth wall. It’s a Charlie Chaplin-inspired performance that highlight the supreme silliness of Latte’s stardom. Day’s sledgehammer message is that any “fool” can be idolized, surrounded by fawning sycophants, and make blockbuster movies.
Fool’s Paradise Goes Off the Rails
Fool’s Paradise starts to fizzle as Day stretches his concept thin. Latte learns the downside as fame inevitably fades. Day wants to establish an emotional connection between Latte and Lenny as they claw back to success, but it doesn’t work at all. They never had a believable friendship. Would Lenny have been so chummy if Latte wasn’t a sensation? To say the storyline goes off the rails is an understatement.
Fool’s Paradise veers into exhaustion. Day’s crystal clear lampooning lacks creative juice in a tiresome second half. What started as a nifty idea becomes a scramble to find a cohesive ending. It never does, and that’s disappointing. You can go narratively overboard but only tread water for so long without sinking.
Fool’s Paradise is a production of Armory Films and Wrigley Pictures. It will have a theatrical release on May 12th from Roadside Attractions.
This story originally appeared on Movieweb