Fool’s Paradise review: a parody of Hollywood

Charlie Day, Kate Beckinsale and Ken Jeong in Fools Paradise.
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Fool’s Paradise is the directorial debut of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Charlie Day – who also stars in the Hollywood parody.

Best known for his role as Charlie in the long-running comedy series It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (and maybe also as the voice of Luigi in this year’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie), Charlie Day makes his directorial debut with Fool’s Paradise. Having also written the script, he attempts to bring his satirical brand of comedy to a feature-length film about Hollywood.

Day stars in the movie in dual roles – as the ridiculous, method acting star of a big budget western who refuses to leave his trailer, and a mute former mental hospital patient who is taken off the streets to replace him in the production. The latter is picked up by a sublimely sweary Ray Liotta playing the movie’s producer, and comes to be ‘respresented’ by Lenny (Ken Jeong), a desperate aspiring publicist with no other clients.

The voiceless protagonist is given the incredibly silly name of Latte Pronto, and the now-actor moves through the studio system, experiencing the highs and lows of Hollywood.

The idea behind having a mute protagonist who doesn’t understand what’s happening around him is clearly that the character is a complete outsider to the ways of the film industry. There’s also a sense that it’s meant to be an ode to the silent stars of classical Hollywood, allowing Day to give a big physical performance as he overreacts to his surroundings. Regardless of intent, there’s an uncomfortable undertone to the main character of this satire being disabled and taken advantage of by the shallow people around him – even if he’s not the butt of the joke.

What Day’s really looking to make fun of is Hollywood and the colourful and often ridiculous characters you meet there. To that end, Fool’s Paradise is full of incredible talent that have grasped the opportunity to play caricatures of Hollywood actors, producers and agents. Again, Ray Liotta, appearing posthumously, is a wonderful standout with a temperamental and sweary performance.

Ray Liotta & Charlie Day in Fool's Paradise.

Adrien Brody and Kate Beckinsale star alongside him as Chad Luxt and Christiana Dior, supporting actors in the western. Both are ridiculous characters who are so shallow and pretentious that they seem not to notice Latte’s lack of understanding, and assume being mute is a personal lifestyle choice. The one actor who gets to play a remotely sympathetic supporting character is Ken Jeong, whose publicist, Lenny, is on the outskirts of Hollywood, desperately trying to be considered successful in an industry that doesn’t want to allow him in. Lenny and Latte are the only characters who form a genuine connection, and that grounds the film emotionally – albeit tenuously.

Day uses these characters to poke fun at all aspects of Hollywood, from the complete chaos of a film set to the obliviousness of the privileged people who work there. It also draws attention at times to the difficulties of ‘making it’ and how much agents, business managers and publicists take from actors in fees. Of course, the plight of actors is something that you’ll be all too aware of if you’ve been following the SAG-AFTRA strikes, and this movie also drives that point home. It’s not particularly incisive, though, and doesn’t break new ground when it comes to making fun of Hollywood or celebrities.

While Fool’s Paradise presents an interesting and initially amusing concept, it starts to lose its way toward the end. It begins with a clear narrative arc, with Latte’s acting career progressing. Towards the end, however, it takes on the qualities of a sketch comedy show. The scenes start to feel disjointed, and each features a different supporting actor playing a new ridiculous character. This is how Common and John Malkovich are introduced. In the case of the latter, the plot of the scene isn’t even anything to do with the film industry, and it seems to have gone completely off the rails.

It tries to get its ending back on track, but ultimately it doesn’t really tie the film up thematically and feels a bit hollow. Day’s satire isn’t as biting as it could be, but Fool’s Paradise is at least full of great acting talent savouring some rather zany roles.

Fool’s Paradise is released on digital platforms on 28th August.

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