Probably still best known for his breakout role in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, there’s no doubt that Charlie Day is a considerable comic talent. Back in the day, there used to be a specific sub-genre which was called ‘comedy’, which was how they used to describe films that made you laugh; Day’s debut as a writer/director resurrects the staples of a traditional comedy, and leans into the comic’s own unique brand of Chaplin-esque pathos. That makes Fool’s Paradise worth seeking out for Day’s many fans; rather than see him shoehorned into a rom-com, Fool’s Paradise provides a rare chance to see Day turned up to eleven.
There’s a catch of course; Day plays a man who, due to an unspecified trauma, cannot talk. This is a formula that’s worked for talents as diverse as Charlie Chaplin and Harpo Marx, whose exaggerated reactions and child-like comedy logic feels very much like the antecedent of Day’s work here. Stumbling into a Hollywood film set for a Billy the Kid Western, Day ends up working as stunt-double for a pretentious method actor whose attachment to his role is so serious that he can’t get out of his own trailer. Day ends up replacing him, and getting an agent in the form of the inimitable Ken Jeong; ‘Ventriloquism is coming back in a big way’ is the kind of questionable advice that Day gets.
Fools Paradise is very much a satire of Hollywood; as with the way that Day’s character keeps kicking over tables at social functions, there’s not much respect shown to the idea of stardom. Day ends up with a feckless wife (a game Kate Beckinsale), garrulous friends (Adrian Brody) or a brainless director (Ted Lasso’s Jason Sudeikis) who claims that Orson Welles designed his casa, but most of it had to be changed because ‘Welles didn’t have good taste’. Day has plenty of mates in da biz, so there’s also one-and done cameos from Edie Falco, Jason Bateman and Jillian Bell, the latter in a neat parody of new age therapy.
Fool’s Paradise may lean into Day’s previously established comedy persona, but that’s no bad thing; as with Harpo, Day is able to say things best when he says nothing at all. Without articulating any point of view, Fool’s Paradise suggests how one individual can be swept from the highs of getting picked for stardom by Ray Liotta (this was originally filmed back in 2018) to the lows of the Mosquito Boy franchise; it’s an offbeat, unusual comedy that doubles down on the challenge of making us laugh, and that’s something to be welcomed in 2023.
Signature Entertainment presents Fool’s Paradise on Digital Platforms 28th August