Charlie Day’s Fool’s Paradise suffers from weak humor and muddled pacing but, thanks to its confident direction, it mostly works as a satirical comedy.
The movie industry can be a haven to craft beautiful art, but for all the good it can do, there’s an underlying cynicism that buries itself within the wider industry. Those who enter the system of Hollywood can just as quickly be chewed up and spat out. It’s a cut throat business but in the end, it’s all in the name of profit and further success. Charlie Day’s Fool’s Paradise is a satirical comedy that manages to mostly be an enjoyable time despite some of its narrative hiccups.
Fool’s Paradise tells the story of Latte Pronto (Charlie Day), a recently released mental health patient who crosses paths with Lenny (Ken Jeong), a struggling publicist within Hollywood. Due to Latte looking exactly like a popular method actor, he quickly finds success within Hollywood. As Latte marries his co-star and finds more success within the film industry, he also finds himself in the middle of an exploitative situation he must escape from.
Fool’s Paradise at its core is a satirical comedy story of how Hollywood and the wider allure of fame and fortune can twist a person inside out. The character of Latte Pronto is someone who can’t speak and yet, his words are taken away from him by the many within the film industry ready to take them. From studio execs, publicists, and actors ready to take advantage of him at any time. This is where the film particularly shines. From the outset, Charlie Day creates a world within Hollywood that’s both surreal and comedic as he takes inspiration from different eras and shades of comedy. Fool’s Paradise, in that sense, can feel like a chaotic mosaic of Charlie Day’s comedic impulses, for better or worse.
To say the journey to the release of Fool’s Paradise was long and treacherous is an understatement. After originally filming back in 2018, the film went through extensive reshoots in 2021 and additional writing, as Charlie Day found assistance from director Guillermo Del Toro. In a way, Fool’s Paradise finds immediate success from the sheer fact that the film was finally released. Although it has the tough task of merging two very different shoots across three years, Fool’s Paradise mostly succeeds in successfully merging Charlie Day’s evolving ideas together.
Where Fool’s Paradise begins to struggle, however, is the pacing and the feeling that we’re mostly exploring old ground. Hollywood within comedy and satire has become all too familiar thanks to shows like HBO’s Barry and films like Robert Altman’s The Player. As the film follows a series of vignette style sequences that explores one man’s navigation through the world of Hollywood, it leaves Fool’s Paradise feeling somewhat muddled as it also attempts to tell a wider narrative of how fame and fortune corrupt us.
By the time Fool’s Paradise reaches its third act, it struggles to articulate what it actually wants to say. As a zany satire of Hollywood told through various vignettes, it mostly succeeds with at least being an engaging watch. Once it attempts to tell a story that seeks to give its two major characters more depth, the lack of time given to properly invest said characters becomes a severe detriment to the film. While Charlie Day and Ken Jeong are admittedly having fun in their roles as an exploited actor and struggling publicist respectively, their characters are far too flat to be truly invested in.
Fool’s Paradise suffers from some weak humor and muddled pacing. However, the confident direction from Charlie Day and some of the fun characters the film creates help keep it consistently engaging. While it may not be a complete slam dunk, it works as a solid introduction to what will hopefully be a bright filmmaking career for Charlie Day.
Fool’s Paradise will be released in US theaters on May 12, 2023.