A satire of Hollywood is always a welcome treat; look no further than last year’s outrageous Babylon, or even the gold standard in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. Marking hilarious actor Charlie Day’s directorial debut, Fool’s Paradise attempts to be the ultimate in satirical, ridiculous scenarios, commentating on everything from celebrity pretentiousness to the nonplussed way we treat the mentally ill. Day also writes and stars as the lead—a bold stance considering this is his first effort. While the concept is commendable, Fool’s Paradise, filmed all the way back in 2018, zig-zags too all over the place to leave any sort of mark.
Freshly-fired publicist Lenny (Ken Jeong) is desperate for a hit. In his words, “I’ll find myself a somebody.” Where better to find a somebody than in the form of a nobody who looks an awful lot like a famous actor? It is a producer (Ray Liotta in one of his final roles) scouring the streets who first discovers a mute homeless man later to be dubbed Latte Pronto (Day). The audience gets little introduction to the man’s character initially, beyond a doctor’s diagnosis behind the walls of a mental asylum. His condition is said to be bizarre and unlike any other. The doctor assumes Latte has suffered great trauma and thus cannot speak; he has no friends or family, and the mind of a five-year-old. Abruptly, Latte is thrown to the streets in a sharply ironic musing on recovery.
Before Latte had a second to comprehend what is happening, he arrives on a movie set before drunken, maniacal movie star Tommy, whom looks an awful lot like Latte (and again played by Day.) The plan is for Latte to stand in for a couple scenes, while Tommy sobers up enough to walk back onto the saloon set. Mere scenes later, Tommy has officially been declared dead via suspected auto-erotic asphyxiation. Who better to take over than Latte? From this point forward, Latte’s new existence just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. Kate Beckinsale shows up as Latte’s co-star and eventual wife, convinced that “nations full of decrepit children depend on her pristine image.” Lenny latches to Latte like an obsessive fan. Exaggerated talk show appearances and filming for subsequent projects try aggressively hard to reap audience laughs.
The sheer amount of celebrity cameos ensure Fool’s Paradise is never boring, yet the plot eventually becomes so incoherent that it is hard to care. Did we really need Jillian Bell as a guru named Mountain Bread chanting “do you have any bread I’m hungry” whilst demanding $6,000 for her calming session, or Jason Sudeikis hard at work creating a celeb photo album out of discarded photo booth strips? This version of Hollywood seems to exist in its own bizarre little bubble. In better hands, perhaps the concept could be tweaked and become quite funny.
Charlie Day’s performance relies on silent-movie acting, completely free of dialogue as the world around him swirls wildly out of control. This was definitely an odd choice, but is probably the only aspect of Fool’s Paradise that occasionally works. Day has such a signature style of humor focused on sight gags and Three Stooges-esque stylings that there is at least nothing else like it in the world of comedy today. The only time I laughed was during Latte’s reactions to loud sounds, such as the gunshots during a premiere for one his films. Every now and then, Fool’s Paradise makes clever Hollywood commentary; mostly though, Day’s script is simply stupid-dumb rather than stupid-funny.
Become a fan of Latte when Fool’s Paradise debuts in theaters on Friday, May 12th.