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Film Review: ‘Fool’s Paradise’ is a Tour de Force Comedy Performance from Charlie Day

Roadside Attractions
Roadside Attractions

Hollywood satires used to be produced more than they are now. In part, that’s due to the disappearing of the mid-range movie, but another aspect of it is that so many tend to miss the mark. When one works, it can be a riot. However, when they don’t, it’s often a train-wreck of a film. Luckily, Fool’s Paradise is the kind of satire that would have succeeded even when this sort of a flick was more common. Especially as a debut work from its writer/director/star Charlie Day, it really does stand out as a lighthearted pleasure.

Fool’s Paradise shows equally strong comedic and satirical chops. Full of cameos and unafraid to feel inside baseball at times, it’s still a broad crowd-pleaser. Plus, the film is unafraid to bring in emotions at times as well. I laughed a lot, marveled at the central performance from Day (more on that below), and had a very good time. As a bit of small-scale comedy counter-programming, what more can you really ask for?

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Two very different stories converge early on to set this one on its path. For a down on his luck publicist (Ken Jeong), a lack of clients is threatening to finally put him out of the industry. For a mute patient at a psychiatric hospital (Day), his issues are ignored when he’s thrown into the Los Angeles streets. As luck would have it, a film producer (Ray Liotta) is having trouble with a major movie star (also Day) on the set of his big western. Seeing an opportunity, he takes him to the studio lot, replacing the diva who won’t leave his trailer. The man isn’t an actor, but everyone is taken with him. In short order, he’s crowned Hollywood’s next big thing, as well as coming on as the publicist’s client and ticket to the big time.

Completely befuddled by the situation, the new star is quickly married to his leading lady (Kate Beckinsale), befriended by an intense co-star (Adrien Brody) and feted in all manner of ways. Of course, in Hollywood as soon as you’re built up, it isn’t long before you’re chewed up and spit out. So goes this tale, with one innocent man caught in the middle, observing it all with a childlike sense of confusion, wonder, and a desire for human connection.

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Charlie Day is just splendid here. Evoking Charlie Chaplin with his silent turn (or near silent since he has dual roles and speaks in the other one), Day is as reliably funny as you’d expect, but he finds the pathos that so easily could have been lost here. It’s the most complete performance here, though Ken Jeong is also very amusing as the high strung publicist. Mainlining energy drinks, it’s a big turn, but also where a lot of the heart resides. The aforementioned Kate Beckinsale and Adrien Brody are delighting in hamming it up, while the late Ray Liotta is always a welcome presence. Supporting players, many of whom are just cameos, include Common, Jason Bateman, Jillian Bell, Edie Falco, Travis Fimmel, Glenn Howerton, John Malkovich, Dean Norris, Jimmi Simpson, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Zajur, and more.

Making his feature filmmaking debut, Day is a confident writer and director. Unafraid to go big, he leans in to slapstick, though there’s a tinge of sadness at almost every turn. There’s always the realization that the protagonist of Fool’s Paradise is being taken advantage of, chewed up only to be spit out, and Day wants you to feel it. He’s largely successful, too, even if he doesn’t quite stick the landing.

Fool’s Paradise is a very promising directorial debut for Charlie Day. His comedy chops, unsurprisingly, are on point. In particular, directing himself to that Chaplin-esque performance is really something. Moreover, so few are able to pull off Hollywood satires these days, that alone would be notable. The combination makes this an easy recommendation and has me excited to see what Day does behind the camera next.

SCORE: ★★★


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Written by Joey Magidson

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