HomeReviews1.5/5 ReviewFool’s Paradise - Film Review

Fool’s Paradise – Film Review

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fools paradise film review
fools paradise film review

A vanity project from an actor-turned-director is about as far away from ‘surefire hit’ as you can get. Chris Pine’s Poolman is getting a thorough spit-roasting from critics as we speak, and there are listless examples of other movies where it’s gone wrong. Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart is a recent-ish example of a good one, but there are countless that are bad. Can you name the films that Johnny Depp, Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Cage directed? We can’t.

So we come to Fool’s Paradise, which is written, directed and starring Always Sunny stalwart Charlie Day. By all accounts, this is a screenplay that he’s been working on for decades, and – through sheer force of will – he’s brought it to the screen. He must have been working on his rolodex at the same time, as the supporting cast is stacked. The most notable is the last performance from Ray Liotta, but we also receive the joys of – deep breath – Kate Beckinsale, Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Ken Jeong, Adrien Brody, John Malkovich, Common and Edie Falco.

It’s about a John Doe (Charlie Day) who gets kicked out of a mental institution in Los Angeles because he hasn’t got any insurance. John’s got a chronic mental illness that has rendered him mute and gives him the mental capacity of a five-year old (or the equivalent of a dog). He bumbles harmlessly about the city and eventually ends up selling oranges to Ray Liotta’s ‘Producer’ while stuck in traffic. Ray’s character spots an opportunity. You see, the John Doe is the spitting image of Sir Tom Bingley, a pain-in-the-ass method actor and star of his film adaptation of Billy the Kid. Now Ray can fire Bingley and insert the John Doe in his place. 

This all happens at 1000mph, and nobody stops to think about whether the John Doe can speak, act or even understand direction. But this is a farce, so the rules are different. The John Doe turns out to be a hit in the role, so he gets a screen name – Latte Pronto – and a publicist in the form of Ken Jeong. Before he can stop to breathe, he’s married, has adopted a gaggle of kids, and is making superhero movies. 

You can see the targets that Fool’s Paradise is aiming for. The biggest one is Hollywood, with its hunt for new fads and the ‘next big thing’. Showbusiness types of all creeds, from the hangers-on to the actors, are roundly ridiculed. Superhero movies get a kicking too, and more specifically – perhaps accidentally – the Blue Beetle movie. All the while, Latte Pronto wonders what the hell is going on. 

But while Fool’s Paradise takes aim, it stumbles, fires straight into the air and lodges an arrow in the top of its head. It’s an epic misfire of a movie, almost completely incomprehensible and just about the least funny comedy that you could come across this year. I found it genuinely painful to persist through. The curse of the actor-director goes on.

The trick that Fool’s Paradise tries to pull is that Latte Pronto is the least foolish person in the movie. He is surrounded by people that are so deluded that they will happily accept him as a husband, hero, actor and more. But the problem with this setup is that the single sane person is mute and barely comprehends what’s going on. That’s not enough. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton tried similar things, but at least their characters could generate respect, and were broadly charismatic. But not here. Fool’s Paradise needed a surrogate for that charismatic centre, with more characters like Ray Liotta’s Producer, who can see through the delusions. 

Because everyone else, and we mean everyone, is unbearable in Fool’s Paradise. They’re a chocolate box of narcissisms, neuroses and psychoses, and we wouldn’t want to ever meet any of them in real life. But Latte bounces between them like a pinball, and we get to spend far too much time with Jeong’s pathetic publicist, Common’s gobbeldigook-speaking action hero, and Brody’s confrontational actor friend. 

While Bowfinger and Forrest Gump could find momentum in similarly themed carnage, Fool’s Paradise can only deal in chaos. Presumably to show the anarchy of Hollywood, Day gets his actors to talk loudly over each other, creating messy scenes where it’s hard to pick out a single word. Scenes crash into one another without any connective flow, giving it the choppy feel of a sketch show. It’s easy to feel as bewildered as Latte.

Most fatally, Fool’s Paradise isn’t the slightest bit funny. There’s not a single quotable line or witty observation. Gags fall flat about celebrities adopting overseas babies, method acting being over-the-top, and green screen being soulless for actors, mostly because they’re dead ducks in a barrel. They’re inherently ridiculous without needing a joke and Charlie Day pointing at them.

We can’t fathom how the screenplay for Fool’s Paradise could have been worked on for decades. The overriding sense is not of something that’s been elaborately planned, but something that has been improvised. It’s chaotic, aimless, noisy and – criminally – unfunny. We’ve watched plenty of films from first-time actor-directors that are forgettable, but we’ve rarely watched one this annoying.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Ray Liotta’s last performance is a standout
  • Latte Pronto is a brilliant character name
Cons:
  • Fails to raise a single chuckle
  • No discernible plot
  • Constant talking over each other
  • Satirises the easiest of targets
Info:
  • Purchased by TXH
  • Running time and release date - 1hr 37mins | 2023
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Ray Liotta’s last performance is a standout</li> <li>Latte Pronto is a brilliant character name</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Fails to raise a single chuckle</li> <li>No discernible plot</li> <li>Constant talking over each other</li> <li>Satirises the easiest of targets</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Purchased by TXH</li> <li>Running time and release date - 1hr 37mins | 2023 </ul>Fool’s Paradise - Film Review
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