Fool’s Paradise 2023 Movie Review
Charlie Day made his bones as a funnyman as the guy with the fingersnails-on-a-chalkboard voice. the screeching star of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Horrible Bosses” and “Fist Fight” takes his shot at mime with “Fool’s Paradise,” a making-movies comedy with Day joining the Keaton, Chaplin and Jaques Tati tradition.
In his writing, directing and starring debut, he leaves the screech behind for silent shtick, a version of Peter Sellers in the Blake Edwards’ Hollywood riff, “The Party” or Richard Mulligan in Blake Edwards’ other Hollywood spoof, “S.O.B.”
It’s a bit of a “Fool’s Errand,” alas, grasp exceeding one’s reach and all that. But Day has to be pleased he got this shot. And if he’s a John Lennon fan, he can take comfort in “Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.” Because look at all the funny people who checked=-n to help ol’Charlie out.
He plays a difficult film star, breaking down so badly in the middle of an expensive “Billy the Kid” movie being filmed on Hollywood soundstages that the ill-tempered producer (Ray Liotta), spying an escaped mental patient peddling oranges on a street corner (Day, again), decides “THIS” is how they’ll “make our day” on the production schedule.
The look-alike stands-in, takes over and despite being mute, confused and overwhelmed by the violence of film production — from the awful hours to the makeup chair ordeal and being manhandled for take after take by the likes of Oscar winner Adrien Brody — becomes a star.
Ken Jeong pulls out all the stops in a way we haven’t seen since his “Hangover/Role Models” days playing an impoverished, incompetent publicist willing to do ANYthing to land a client. Kate Beckinsale, buried under makeup and an accent, then buried under attitude, is the “Kid” co-star (a Calamity Jane type) named “Christiana Diorr” who instantly beds and weds our rising star, who wins the name “Latte Pronto” for reasons that are soooo L.A.
Jason Bateman plays a deadpan on-set effects guy. Jason Sudeikis is the vain, delusional action director Lex Tanner of the “Fast Racer” movies, hired to turn Latte Pronto into comic book hero “Mosquito Boy.”
Edie Falco kills it as the agent who heads up the new star’s “team” of eight — manager, business manager, lawyer, publicist, stylist, personal assistant and intern.
Veteran big screen/little screen bully Dean Norris is the blowhard studio chief who has assistants whisper how he’s supposed to chew this mishaps-prone new talent out, and whisper who he really is when the chief chews out the wrong pipsqueak.
And Jillian Bell is the new wife’s overpriced “shaman.” The funniest scenes are the manic, noisy early ones, as our undiagnosable head-case is worked-over by Brody’s “half-Method, now” co-star. “Used to go full Method. But people got hurt. Not me.”
Brody ALWAYS gives good gonzo in comedies. Here he channels every story we ever heard about Dennis Hopper as a character actor on the make and recklessly behind the wheel of a vintage Mach I, drinking and driving and shooting out a street light that hosted the first dance between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Welcome to “La La Land,” indeed.
“James Dean died RIGHT OVER THERE” he drunkenly shouts from the lurching Mustang at one point. Liotta, in one of his last roles, gives Day’s “Latte” his name by accident and a serious cussing-out on purpose. Ray Liotta chewing out Charlie Day, doing the Lord’s Work, right to the End.
The messaging here is that silence in show business is “a choice” that could earn you extra credit just for “Being There,” to mention another Sellers classic. Show folk love the sounds of their own voices so very much that they barely notice “Latte” never speaks.
That’s not deep, novel or particularly astute, as far as Hollywood observations go and not really enough to hang your screen comedy on. But it’s a relief when the talking/screeching version of Day has an accident and the silent version takes over. He manages the pratfalls and double-takes well enough.
He’s no Keaton, Chaplin, Begnini, Sellers or David Hyde Pierce, to name some of the great physical comics of ancient and recent vintage. There’s no shame in that. Neither was Steve Martin, even though he took more shots and came a lot closer.
What Day tried to do was replicate those all-star farces that generations like his grew up with, but in an R-rated form. He failed. But look at all these often funny friends who gave their all at trying to help him succeed.