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More Charm than Chuckles in Fool’s Paradise

Ray Liotta as The Producer and Charlie Day. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

There’s a charming soft side to the satirical Fool’s Paradise. This comedic jab at fame and fortune light-heartedly lampoons celebrity and the movie machine that produces it, but sometimes it lacks the razor edge necessary to slay the audience. Though it certainly tickles the funny bone from time to time, the film’s charm can only carry it so far.

Fool’s Paradise is mainly about Latte Pronto played by writer-director Charlie Day. Recently released from a mental institution, this harmless character bears an uncanny resemblance to an insufferable method actor. Hoping Latte might make a suitable replacement for the intolerable thespian, a producer snatches him off the street, sticks him in a film, and the story unfolds from there.

Charlie Day in bowler hat and a simple suit with no tie, portraying Latte Pronto in Fool's Paradise, courtesy of Roadside Attractions
Charlie Day as Latte Pronto. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

As he’s swept up in the Hollywood machine, Fool’s Paradise follows Latte turning into a celebrity overnight and forced to contend with all that that entails. It’s a mad world of sycophants, insecure idiot stars, money leeches, and Lenny, an out at the elbows publicist played by Ken Jeong, who latches on at just the right moment. The two essentially rise and fall together making the movie as much about Lenny as it is about Latte.

The film’s satirical punches are solid for the most part. Often these amount to sparing more than blows, but they make their point without any doubt. Adrien Brody and Kate Beckinsale wonderfully embody the predictable pretentious Hollywood buffoons that other films, TV shows, and books have skewered before. And perhaps that’s what lessens the impact. As honestly insightful as it may be, Fool’s Paradise doesn’t say much about Hollywood and celebrity which hasn’t already been said.

The overall point seems to be that the movie industry is a con job grifting the people in it at as well as the public. The insecurities, delusions, and desperation of those embracing this machine keep the illusion alive. Something brought to life by the cavalcade of stars gracing this picture. Unfortunately, while Fool’s Paradise makes this observation solidly, it arrives so early that the message gets dulls through repetition.

Kate Beckinsale, Charlie Day, and Ken Jeong dressed in high fashion during a red carpet scene in Fool's Paradise, courtesy of Roadside Attractions.
Kate Beckinsale as Christianna Dior alongside Charlie Day and Ken Jeong. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

Similarly, what starts as charming comedy eventually degrades into one-note. Charlie Day infuses Latte with an amusing mix of Charlie Chaplin as well as Peter Sellers in Being There (1979). However, the blank slate of this clumsy mute, which allows everyone to think he thinks what they’re thinking—it’s like using the same drum beat for every song on an album. Best known for the TV series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie Day is a proven comedic performer and with a list of quality credits to his own name, Ken Jeong can claim the same. However, what Fool’s Paradise doesn’t prove is whether the two can carry a film. Despite being excellent additions to any ensemble cast, they don’t lead much here, which didn’t have to be a bad thing.

Fool’s Paradise features an astonishing cast. Technically, there isn’t a bad performer in the whole movie. However, that doesn’t always translate to comedy gold. For example, Edie Falco oscillates in quality from one scene to the next. The portrayal of a Hollywood agent is consistent throughout the film. As such, the delivery and the dialogue sometimes come together in ways that are amusingly absurd. Other times, it’s hard to tell which is failing because both feel like they could work together but just aren’t. In other words, it’s often possible to see the humor Fool’s Paradise is striving for while at the same time missing the mark. The result are scenes that seem to possess potential laughs yet don’t produce anything funny.

Charlie Day and Adrien Brody dressed as cowboys in Fool's Paradise, a comedy courtesy of Roadside Attractions.
Adrien Brody as Chad Luxt with Charlie Day. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

This isn’t the most common problem with the comedy in Fool’s Paradise, though it does speak to a lot of what isn’t working. Jokes often feel antiquated or so telegraphed in their obvious setups that certain scenes lack any impact. The upside is that when they do land these result in some solid satire alongside genuine laughs. Plus, there is a charm to some of the absurdity that results from Latte’s innocent involvement in celebrity insanity. But the inconsistency of the comedy makes Fool’s Paradise a bit frustrating at times.

Not all comedy needs to be nasty, vulgar, or barbed. There’s certainly potential for a broader audience to enjoy Fool’s Paradise. Even its brief glimpse into the erotic film industry is tastefully absurd. More young adult than family friendly, the film is good in that respect. Unlike other contemporary comedies, Fool’s Paradise doesn’t go for cheap laughs. While not everything works, for whatever reason, it certainly took risks instead of using dick joke crutches.

Ken Jeong and Charlie Day in tuxedos on the red carpet in Fool's Paradise, a comedy courtesy of Roadside Attractions
Ken Jeong as Lenny and Charlie Day as Latte Pronto. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

Again, the cast is bound to be a big draw for many audiences. It’s a real treat discerning the myriad cameos in big roles and small. Ray Liotta plays The Producer, who thrusts Latte into the limelight, and it’s a top tier performance for the dearly departed. He captures the right level of absurdity and intensity that makes the scenarios he’s in comical. Often the same could be said of Kate Beckinsale, who plays Christiana Dior, a Hollywood star who almost seems to be intentionally embracing cliché. Throughout Fool’s Paradise, though, are several other gems which will cause audiences to go, “Was that who I think it was?”

It was.

Fool’s Paradise feels like a film from another era. While a post-pandemic world may be a little too jaded for lighter comedies, not everyone is a calloused curmudgeon just yet. Many may enjoy this curious throwback that makes some solid satirical points. Even if they aren’t the freshest observations, they do feel sincere, and the film’s overarching point about human connection is worth embracing. Still, it’s not a movie everyone is bound to enjoy and may end up being remembered more for the promise of its premise than the quality of its comedy.

Written by Jay Rohr

J. Rohr is a Chicago native with a taste for history and wandering the city at odd hours. In order to deal with the more corrosive aspects of everyday life he writes the blog and makes music in the band Beerfinger. His Twitter babble can be found @JackBlankHSH.

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