Culture Representation: Taking place in the Los Angeles area, the comedy film “Fool’s Paradise” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A mostly mute man goes from being patient at a psychiatric facility to impersonating a famous actor while also hanging out with a con-man publicist.
Culture Audience: “Fool’s Paradise” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners, because their name recognition is the only thing that this embarrassing dud has going for it.
“Fool’s Paradise” is more like viewer’s hell, for anyone expecting this comedy to be funny. It looks like the type of flop whose all-star cast members are there because the director begged them to be in his movie, instead of the screenplay being good. Not only is “Fool’s Paradise” painfully unfunny, but it’s also relentlessly boring.
Written and directed by Charlie Day, “Fool’s Paradise” is Day’s feature-film directorial debut. Day has made a name for himself by mostly doing comedies on TV and in movies. (He’s one of the stars of the long-running comedy TV series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”) You’d think that someone with all of these years of experience in comedy would’ve learned how to make an entertaining comedy film. “Fool’s Paradise” looks like a movie directed by a complete amateur who convinced several famous people to be in the movie.
There isn’t much to the rambling and garbage plot of “Fool’s Paradise,” which takes place in the Los Angeles area. Day portrays two characters in the movie: the constantly confused main character Latte Pronto and look-alike difficult actor Sir Thomas Kit Bingsley. Someone who buzzes around like an annoying insect in the movie is a con man named Lenny (played by Ken Jeong), who has decided he’s going to convince people that he’s a publicist in the entertainment business. Much of “Fool’s Paradise” is about the silly antics that happen after Lenny meets Latte.
“Fool’s Paradise” begins by showing Lenny in a tense meeting at a diner with an unnamed comedian (played by Andrew Santino), who is furious because he hired Lenny to introduce him to agents and managers, but Lenny hasn’t delivered on that promise. Lenny makes weak excuses, but this angry client has had enough of Lenny and fires him on the spot. With no more clients to deceive, Lenny goes on the hunt for his next scam victim.
Meanwhile, at a psychiatric facility, two unnamed doctors (played by Peter Mackenzie and Christine Horn) decide that they have to discharge one of the patients at the facility. The first doctor says about this hapless patient (played by Day): “The patient is a nobody. He has no family or friends. He has the mind of a 5-year-old or a Labrador retriever.” The doctor adds that the state won’t pay for any of Latte’s therapy, “so we’re going to put his ass on the first bus downtown.”
While this displaced man is now homeless walking on a street, he’s spotted by an unnamed producer (played by Ray Liotta), who is driving by and immediately notices that this person on the street looks identical to hard-drinking actor Thomas. The producer is frustrated because Thomas has been acting like a spoiled, alcoholic diva on the set of the producer’s latest movie, which is a Western.
The producer decides to meet this stranger and hire him as Thomas’ double whenever Thomas is too drunk to work. Even though this stranger seems incapable of telling anyone who he is, the producer decides to go through with the plan. The producer invites the stranger to be on the movie studio lot. During a lunch with the stranger, the producer orders someone to get him a “latte, pronto.” And that’s how the stranger begins to call himself Latte Pronto.
The problem? Latte has lost his ability to speak. That’s supposed to be the movie’s main gimmick, but “Fool’s Paradise” is so stupid, it does away with that gimmick by showing that Latte is mute, except when he has to deliver his actor lines when he’s impersonating Thomas. His co-star in the movie is Chad Luxt (played by Adrien Brody), who plays the villain character Black Bart in the producer’s Western movie.
Before the movie can be completed, Thomas is found dead from self-asphyxiation. At the producer’s urging, Latte takes over Thomas’ identity completely, in order to finish the movie. The producer doesn’t want to lose his investment in the film. Latte then begins to live the life of a movie star, including having Lenny as his publicist. Also in Latte’s entourage are an agent (played by Edie Falco), an attorney, a stylist and an intern (played by Shane Paul McGhie).
An actress named Christiana Dior (played by Kate Beckinsale) starts off in the story as Chad’s girlfriend, but she dumps Chad to marry Latte. Christiana is a shallow trophy wife and one of the worst-written characters in “Fool’s Paradise.” Jason Sudeikis has a brief supporting role as a movie director. Jason Bateman makes a cameo as a special effects technician.
John Malkovich and Tom O’Rion portray wealthy businessman brothers Ed Cote and Dartanon Cote, who are heavly involved in political campaigns. It’s an obvious spoof of the real-life Charles Koch and David Koch. Hip-hop star/actor Common has a small supporting role as a homeless guy named The Dagger. Most of the characters in “Fool’s Paradise” do not have names.
There are some really awful movies where you can tell that at least the cast members were having fun. That’s not the case with “Fool’s Paradise,” which is the type of dreadful misfire where the principal cast members look like they know they’re stuck in a horrible movie, and they all (including Day) give lackluster performances. The sluggish pacing makes this cinematic cesspool of bad comedy even worse. The only good thing that might come out of “Fool’s Paradise” is that if Day directs another movie, hopefully he’ll learn from this colossal failure of creativity, and he won’t make the same mistakes again.
Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions released “Fool’s Paradise” in U.S. cinemas on May 12, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on June 2, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place in 1984, primarily in Oregon and in North Carolina, the dramatic film “Air” features a predominantly white group of people (with some African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: Against the odds, Nike executives convince a young Michael Jordan to sign with Nike, which makes a historic deal to create the Air Jordan shoe brand entirely around him.
Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the target audience of fans of Michael Jordan, Air Jordan shoes and the movie’s headliners, “Air” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching movies about landmark business deals, from the perspectives of the business executives.
“Air” is designed to be an awards-bait movie with mass appeal, but it has a very selective agenda in which characters get the most importance in the story. This dramatic origin story of the Air Jordan business hits many familiar beats of sports underdog movies. The acting and writing are engaging, but Michael Jordan is a sidelined character. His mother is at least given credit for being a smart dealmaker. “Air” had its world premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film and TV Festival.
Directed by Ben Affleck and written by Alex Convery, “Air” takes place in 1984, in the months leading up to the September 1984 launch of Nike’s very first Air Jordan shoes, also known as Air Jordan 1. According to several reports, Nike (which is headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon) had $5 billion in sales from Jordan Brand (Nike’s division Air Jordans shoes) in 2022. In “Air,” the underdogs and main heroes of this sports story are not athletes but the Nike executives who played crucial roles in conceiving and launching this industry-changing athletic shoe brand. It’s a very feel-good, slanted view of a fascinating story, but “Air” is a scripted drama, not a documentary.
The main protagonist of “Air” is Sonny Vaccaro (played by Matt Damon), a Nike basketball recruiter who’s been mainly working with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in selling Nike basketball shoes. Vaccaro is often credited with being the person who came up with the idea to have Nike pay NCAA colleges to have their basketball teams wear Nike shoes as product endorsements meant to influence people to buy the shoes. This type of product endorsement is now commonplace in the NCAA.
Sonny is passionate about basketball. And because he is deeply entrenched in NCAA basketball, he has a knack for being able to predict which NCAA players will be the top recruits by the National Basketball Association (NBA). But getting the top recruits for Nike endorsement deals requires a lot of money that Nike doesn’t have. The problem is that in 1984, Nike is financially struggling from decreased sales and massive money losses.
In terms of basketball shoe sales, Converse was the market leader at the time, with 54% of the market share, according to a statistic mentioned in “Air.” Converse had endorsement deals with NBA stars such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Adidas, which was Converse’s closest competition in 1984, was popular with hip-hop stars, such as Run-DMC. Adidas was also Jordan’s first choice on where he wanted to sign an endorsement deal as a 21-year-old rookie for the Chicago Bulls.
Meanwhile, in 1984, Nike had only 17% of the market share for basketball shoe sales before the historic deal with Jordan. Nike also had an image and reputation of being an outdated company whose specialty was shoes for joggers. Basketball fans come in all different races, but NBA basketball is mostly played by African Americans. As Nike vice president of athlete relations Howard White (played by Chris Tucker), who is African American, half-jokingly comments in the movie: “Black people don’t jog.”
Nike vice president of marketing Rob Strasser (played by Jason Bateman) isn’t as passionate about basketball as Sonny is, but he is passionate about making profits from his marketing ideas. Rob is cynical about Nike’s office politics, and he has a world-weary attitude about him. He gives the impression that he is very annoyed with being part of a losing company, but he doesn’t want to quit Nike because he’s convinced that he can be part of the team that turn things around for Nike. Privately, Rob is afraid that no other company would hire him if he wanted to leave Nike.
“Air” makes a point of showing that middle-aged Sonny (a bachelor with no children) is at a crossroads in his life and at Nike. Sonny’s life revolves around Nike, which is in a slump. And he’s got a lot to prove, because Sonny’s self-esteem is very wrapped up in his job. Observant viewers will also see that Sonny likes to gamble a lot in his free time, which is a possible addiction that the movie never really explores. The parallels are obvious: Sonny is about to make the biggest gamble in his career with the Jordan deal.
Someone else who’s also got a lot to prove is Nike founder/CEO Phil Knight (played by Affleck), who is exactly the type of upper-class jogger that Nike has been courting for years. But there’s no denying that basketball shoes will be a driving force of sales for athletic footwear. Nike has been slow to adapt. Sonny says to Phil: “Basketball is the future.” Phil is skeptical: “Basketball is dead.”
In a Nike executive meeting that includes Sonny, Rob and a few other employees, Rob asks everyone in the room who their top choices are for NBA recruits who should be pursued by Nike. Sonny wants Jordan. Sonny also gets frustrated because everyone else names safe choices of basketball players who probably won’t achieve greatness. Sonny berates the employees by saying: “I have no tolerance for people who have no insight.”
In the men’s restroom, Rob tells Sonny that Sonny should be more diplomatic in these meetings. Sonny brushes off this advice. He is determined to sign Jordan and will do whatever it takes. Sonny thinks Nike should be spending even more money on the Jordan deal, while Phil wants to spend less.
Part of Sonny’s goal includes persuading Phil to spend Nike’s entire $500,000 recruiting budget on Jordan, before Jordan even starts playing for the Bulls. It’s unprecedented. And at the time, its seems like more than a big risk. It seems like financial suicide for Nike.
Sonny reminds Phil that Phil took a big risk by founding Nike. And he needs Phil to take a big risk on Sonny’s gut instinct that Jordan is the one and only NBA player that Nike should sign for this basketball season. Sonny tells Phil that if Sonny is wrong about Jordan, then Sonny will probably resign from Nike.
Sonny’s enthusiasm (or obsession) to sign Jordan means that Sonny inevitably offends people with his aggressive tactics. One of those people is Jordan’s agent David Falk (played by Chris Messina), a fast-talking, foul-mouthed New Yorker, who has some of the funniest scenes in the movie when he has raging meltdowns every time Sonny bypasses David to try to close the deal. David makes threats to Sonny that’s just a lot of empty, blustering talk. David is also one of the naysayers who thinks that Nike won’t be able to afford Jordan. In real life, Falk is credited with coming up with the name Air Jordan, but “Air” pokes a little fun at this claim to fame.
As part of his preparation for the deal, Sonny watches footage of Jordan’s college games and figures out the inner workings of Nike’s competition. He also gets some important advice from Jordan family associate George Raveling (played by Marlon Wayans), who was an assistant coach of the U.S. Olympics basketball team at the time. It’s a short but well-acted scene in the movie, where George tells Sonny a memorable story about being in the crowd during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington.
“Air” depicts Sonny as being inspired to create an entire Nike shoe line around Jordan after Sonny sees an old TV ad with tennis star Arthur Ashe talking about his custom-made tennis shoes that have been replicated for people to buy. Ever the wheeler dealer, Sonny makes a bold move to pitch the idea directly to Jordan’s parents Deloris Jordan (played by Viola Davis) and James Jordan (played by Julius Tennon), by driving to the Jordan parents’ home in Wilmington, North Carolina, and showing up unannounced. (Davis and Tennon are married in real life.) Deloris is the outspoken and savvy business person of the couple, and she makes the best power play in the entire story.
And where is Michael Jordan during all of these schemes and deals that wouldn’t exist without him? “Air” depicts Michael Jordan (played by Damian Young) as an occasional bystander who says very little in this story, and he is mostly filmed with his back to the camera. There’s some archival footage of the real Michael Jordan, but the screen time in “Air” for these clips is also very brief.
In the production notes for “Air,” director Affleck explains this choice: “Michael Jordan is so famous that I truly felt if we ever saw an actor playing [him], it would be hard to get the audience to suspend their disbelief, because, in my opinion, there’s no convincing anybody that someone who isn’t Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan. We felt a more interesting way to tell the story would be for him to exist in the ether of the movie. To be talked about by everyone but not seen is somewhat analogous to the experience of celebrities and sports stars in modern life, because most people go their whole lives without ever meeting or seeing their favorite sports star or celebrity in person. So we only see Michael in clips and flashes. We don’t ever fully see him in person because to see him in person would be to put his feet on the ground in a way that the movie doesn’t want to do.”
In other words, Affleck didn’t want any character to overshadow the Sonny character, played by Affleck’s longtime friend Damon. (Affleck and Damon are two of the producers of “Air.”) The fact of the matter is that this movie could have shown a little bit more respect for Michael Jordan’s role in this monumental deal. The “Air” movie depicts Michael Jordan as mostly caring about getting a new red Mercedes 380SL as part of the deal, while his parents (especially his mother) did almost all of the talking for him. It’s hard to believe that Michael Jordan didn’t speak more in these business meetings.
Another thing that looks very fabricated for the movie is how the first Air Jordan design came about, because it’s depicted as a “race against time” over a weekend to get a prototype ready in time for a Monday meeting with Michael Jordan and his parents. It’s the prototype for the shoe that would become Air Jordan 1. Peter Moore (played by Michael Maher) is portrayed as the artistic visionary who came up with the design for the shoe all by himself. The movie mentions a team of designers who worked with Peter to bring his vision to life, but these team members are nowhere to be seen in “Air.”
It’s another misstep that doesn’t properly acknowledge the contributions of an untold number of real-life people who were essential members of the team. “Air “didn’t have to single out all of these people in the movie, but they could have at least been characters seen in the movie as background extras. It’s odd that with so much of Nike’s Air Jordan deal riding on the actual product (the shoes), so little thought in the movie is given to the shoemakers who helped make the first Air Jordans a reality. Instead, “Air” makes it look like it was only Peter Moore in a Nike shoe design room who created the first Air Jordan.
What “Air” does get right is having an infectious energy in the behind-the-scenes drama that went into making this deal happen. The dialogue is snappy and intelligent but accessible. And the performances, especially from Damon and Davis, are above-average for movies of this type of subject matter. “Air” also has excellent soundtrack choices, with well-placed pop songs from the 1980s, such as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” Chaka Khan and Rufus’s “Ain’t Nobody” and Squeeze’s “Tempted.” The movie also has Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” which actually wasn’t released until 1985, but that’s a minor dateline error in an otherwise commendable soundtrack.
A movie like “Air” obviously wants to be more important than just a story about how Nike made a comeback by signing a young Michael Jordan in what would turn out to be the most lucrative celebrity endorsement deal in athletic shoe history. (For a deep dive into the cultural impact of Air Jordans, the 2020 documentary “One Man and His Shoes” is worth seeing.) The story depicted in “Air” serves as an example of how some of the best risks are taken by people who’ve got a lot to lose but take the risks anyway. It’s too bad that Michael Jordan’s perspective of this inspirational story is completely erased from the movie.
Amazon Studios will release “Air” in U.S. cinemas on April 5, 2023. Prime Video will premiere the movie on May 12, 2023.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the organization the votes for the Golden Globe Awards) and Dick Clark Productions (which co-produces the Golden Globes telecast) have announced the presenters of the 2020 Golden Globe Awards ceremony, which takes place January 5 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills California. NBC will have the U.S. telecast of the show, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern Time/5 p.m. Pacific Time.
Here are the presenters in alphabetical order:
Ana de Armas*
Da’Vine Joy Randolph
*2020 Golden Globe Awards nominee
Ricky Gervais is hosting the show. Tom Hanks will be receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement, while Ellen DeGeneres will be getting the Carol Burnett Award, which is given to people who have excelled in comedy. The Carol Burnett Award debuted at the Golden Globes in 2019, and Burnett was the first recipient of the prize. Dylan and Paris Brosnan (sons of Pierce Brosnan) will serve as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors.
Click here for a complete list of nominations for the 2020 Golden Globe Awards.