Review by Sean Boelman
Sharing its name with a 1921 silent classic by Cecil B. DeMille, Fool’s Paradise is the directorial debut of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Charlie Day. Generally uninspired, the film isn’t terrible, but it’s certainly disappointing how bland it is considering what seems to be numerous favors Day called in to get A-listers in front of the camera.
The movie follows a man off the street who becomes an accidental celebrity, only to repeatedly find himself at the wrong place at the wrong time, causing him to lose it all. It’s a premise that feels like it should be some sort of bawdy Hollywood satire a la Babylon, but Day seemingly doesn’t have much to say about modern Hollywood — which is unsurprising, given that this was in the can five years ago and things have changed a lot in that time.
Given that the film has so little to say, it ends up feeling rather monotonous and uninspired after a time. The hijinks that our lovable fool stumbles his way into aren’t particularly original — with all of the usual slapstick beats getting hit. It doesn’t help that the movie can’t entirely decide who it’s for, splitting the difference between wholesome and raunchy in a confusing and unsatisfying way.
For the most part, the film is focused on the dynamic between Day’s character and his publicist, played by Ken Jeong. Day clearly is attempting to channel his best Charlie Chaplin in his mute performance, but it’s an odd choice — Day’s whole gimmick tends to be him shouting loudly, after all. Jeong, on the other hand, is doing his usual gimmick, and it just feels out of place and overwhelming here.
The character development in the movie is somewhat underwhelming. The beginning of the film gives us a bit of expositional background on the protagonist and his condition before he is thrown into a series of wacky situations. Although the people he encounters along the way are pretty fun, the movie fails to effectively connect us to the hero of our story in any way.
That being said, although Day and Jeong have a majority of the screen time in the film, it’s the rest of the cast who shine. It feels like everyone else is getting to legitimately have fun in their goofy roles, while Day and Jeong are kinda laboring. People like Adrien Brody, Kate Beckinsale, and Glenn Howerton are fun to watch in their silliness.
One would think that a comedic actor with as many years of experience under his belt as Day would have a great understanding of physical comedy, but that’s not really the case. The physical gags here have no energy and while they won’t cause you to cringe, they also don’t elicit much laughter. The production design also isn’t all that impressive.
The only thing that manages to keep Fool’s Paradise afloat is the commitment of the supporting cast, most of which is enjoyable to watch here. Charlie Day is certainly a talented comedic actor, but he’s made a directorial debut that completely fails to take advantage of his skills.
Fool’s Paradise hits theaters on May 12.