Unfortunately, my one-day pass for a coffee interview was more enjoyable than writer/director Charlie Day’s toothless Hollywood satire, “Fool’s Paradise.” Poking fun at the industry’s quirks, like the importance of getting coffee for more powerful people, the mercurial nature of star power, and the strange characters you meet along the way, is a fine premise—it gave us many seasons of “BoJack Horseman.” Even the recent disillusioned love letter to Tinseltown, “Babylon,” had something to explore last year. But Day seems to have nothing new or insightful to add beyond pointing out some heightened caricatures of who you meet in Hollywood. On his way to making his satire, Day forgot to add jokes, and few comedies can redeem themselves from that sin.
In “Fool’s Paradise,” Day plays a man with no family and no past who is dumped by doctors in downtown Los Angeles at what turns out to be the right time. He catches the eye of a desperate producer (Ray Liotta, in one of his final roles), and although he does not speak and acts like a lost child confused by the world around him, he is renamed Latte Pronto and ascends in the industry with a fast-talking, energy drink-addicted publicist (Ken Jeong) by his side. Along the way, he will meet a high-maintenance movie star wife, Christiana Dior (Kate Beckinsale), a freewheeling bad boy actor named Chad (Adrien Brody), a dudebro director (Jason Sudeikis), an excited special effects tech (Jason Bateman), a disloyal agent (Edie Falco), and a former action star who’s fallen on hard times (Common) among many others.
Written and directed by Day, “Fool’s Paradise” is a cameo cavalcade of stars, and that’s the kindest thing I can say about it. Day goes all-in on making almost every character other than himself grotesquely annoying. For his part, Day adopts a Chaplinesque persona dressed as an L.A. jerk who looks like he’ll claim to have an in at Magic Castle but never takes you. But Day profoundly misunderstands the enduring appeal of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp character or even his Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd counterparts. The world happens around them, and they react. At some point in their movies, they jump into action, laying the groundwork for physical comedians for generations to come. Things happen to Latte because of his lack of action, and the usual reaction is some puzzled looks and arched eyebrows. I’m generalizing here, but each of the three prominent silent comedians also had much to say about the human condition (Chaplin), how technology was changing the world around them (Keaton), and the new problems facing the modern man (Lloyd). I could not find a thought beyond “Isn’t Hollywood a funny place” in Day’s film, which also happens to be the same number of the movie’s punchlines.