Charlie Day misses the mark as a storyteller in Fool's Paradise
If a TV show can be simultaneously popular and a cult obsession, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is it. The FX series, which started in 2005, is about to start its 16th season, making it the longest-running live action sitcom of all time. At the same time, its esoteric brand of humor makes it an acquired taste, with only around 300,000 people watching each episode.
One of the show’s three main stars, Charlie Day, has brought a version of Sunny’s comedy to the big screen with Fool’s Paradise. Day plays an unnamed character who, when we first meet him, is in an institution where a doctor explains that he is unable to speak for unknown reasons, and that he has the “mind of a 5-year-old or a Labrador retriever.”
After being unceremoniously kicked out because the government won’t pay for his care, he starts wandering the streets of Los Angeles, mindlessly following various groups. Picked up by a movie producer (Ray Liotta) to stand in for an egotistical actor (also Day), he finds himself starring in a movie. Given the name of “Latte Pronto” by a wannabe publicist named Lenny (Ken Jeong), he soon becomes the toast of the town, going through the highs and lows of being a star, all while seemingly oblivious to what is actually happening.
Written and directed by Day in his feature film debut, the film had the potential to be a fun fusion between the silent comedic style of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton and a send-up of the film industry. There are fleeting moments when it accomplishes that goal, but more often it’s a frustrating exercise where the jokes aren’t enough to carry the story and Day’s acting becomes redundant and uninteresting.
Day seems to want to hit on a lot of elements of being part of the Hollywood machine, and so the story moves at a breakneck pace through its short running time of 90 minutes. Among many other things, his character marries a starlet and adopts a bunch of kids, gets sued for fighting, finds himself at the center of a scandal, and falls off a building. The absurdity of the speed at which all of this happens is likely the point, but most of the scenarios are inert without any real juice behind them.
Day appears to have called in favors from a ton of actors, as the film is absolutely littered with well-known actors in small roles or cameos. Adrien Brody, Kate Beckinsale, Liotta, and Jeong have the most screen time, while the likes of Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, John Malkovich, Edie Falco, Dean Norris, and Common show up for a scene or two. Naturally, he calls on his Sunny co-star Glenn Howerton and guest stars Jimmi Simpson and Mary Elizabeth Ellis for help as well.
The most disappointing thing about the film is that Day really does have the face and ability to make a completely silent character work. The expressiveness he demonstrates with his eyes and his mouth are fantastic, but the one-dimensional nature of his character keeps him from becoming somebody in which you want to become invested.
Fool’s Paradise is neither a great homage to silent movies nor a great satire of Hollywood in general, leaving it stranded in the middle of nowhere. It’s great to see someone like Day get an opportunity to spread his wings, but unfortunately this failure may mean that he doesn’t get another one anytime soon.
Fool's Paradise is now playing in theaters.