Review: ‘Fool’s Paradise’ (2023), starring Charlie Day, Ken Jeong, Kate Beckinsale, Adrien Brody, Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Common and Ray Liotta

August 11, 2023

by Carla Hay

Kate Beckinsale, Charlie Day and Ken Jeong in “Fool’s Paradise” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

“Fool’s Paradise” (2023)

Directed by Charlie Day

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.

Charlie Day and Adrien Brody in “Fool’s Paradise” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

“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.

Review: ‘Prisoner’s Daughter,’ starring Kate Beckinsale, Brian Cox, Christopher Convery, Jon Huertas, Ernie Hudson and Tyson Ritter

July 21, 2023

by Carla Hay

Brian Cox, Kate Beckinsale and Christopher Convery in “Prisoner’s Daughter” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

“Prisoner’s Daughter”

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Las Vegas, the dramatic film “Prisoner’s Daughter” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An elderly man, who’s been in prison for violent crimes, is released early after he is diagnosed with cancer, and he goes to live with his estranged daughter and her son, while she has problems with her ex-husband, who’s a drug addict.

Culture Audience: “Prisoner’s Daughter” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching formulaic dramas about estranged family members reuniting.

Kate Beckinsale and Tyson Ritter in “Prisoner’s Daughter” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

“Prisoner’s Daughter” holds viewers hostage with its relentlessly maudlin and predictable story. Brian Cox and Kate Beckinsale go through some very drab motions in this trite drama about a terminally ill criminal living with his estranged daughter. The movie is supposed to be emotionally intense, but the tone often veers into hokey melodrama, with much of it not believable at all. The movie’s dialogue is pedestrian at best. “Prisoner’s Daughter” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke and written by Mark Bacci, “Prisoner’s Daughter” (which takes place in Las Vegas) becomes more about the “prisoner” and less about the “daughter” as the movie lumbers along until its very sappy conclusion. Cox is the “prisoner”: a gruff cynic named Max “Buddy” MacLeary, who has been in and out of prison for violent crimes for most of his adult life. Max’s most recent stint in prison has been his longest: 12 years.

The story’s “daughter” is Max’s daughter Maxine, nicknamed Maxi (played by Beckinsale), who is an embittered, divorced mother who has cut off contact with Max for years because he’s been an irresponsible, mostly absentee father for most of her life. Maxine’s mother is deceased. Maxine, who works as a food server at a casual restaurant, is financially struggling and living in a modest house with her son Ezra (played by Christopher Convery), who’s about 13 or 14 years old. Maxine’s ex-husband/Ezra’s father is a drug-addicted musician named Tyler (played by Tyson Ritter), who’s a drummer in a rock band that’s going nowhere.

Near the beginning of the movie, it’s shown that Max has been diagnosed with cancer, so he is granted an early release from prison, but he’s still supposed to be under house arrest. In other words, the prison system didn’t want to pay for his cancer treatment, so prison officials let him go, but still want to have some control over him. Max is required to wear an ankle bracelet to keep track of his whereabouts. Jon Huertas has a small supporting role as the prison’s warden, whose name is Joseph.

Now that Max knows that he has a terminal illness, he wants to make amends with Maxine. As soon as Max is released, he pays an unannounced visit to Maxine, who is very unhappy to see him. Max expresses remorse for not being a good father. Max tells Maxine that he’s in the final stage of cancer, and he asks to live with her and Ezra. Maxine dislikes the idea, but agrees only if Max pays her rent.

Max, who used to be a semi-pro boxer in his youth, gets the money by going to his old boxing friend Hank (played by Ernie Hudson) and asking Hank to repay the money that Max lent to Hank years ago, so that Hank could open his own boxing gym. The gym is still operating. Hank is the chief trainer at the gym.

Maxine has been having conflicts with Tyler, who wants to spend more time with Ezra, but she thinks Tyler is too dangerous and too flaky to get more visitation rights. Expect to see several scenes of Tyler being aggressive and unstable while he’s high on whatever drugs he’s been taking. One of the few things that Maxine and Max agree on is that they both despise Tyler.

Meanwhile, Ezra happens to be living with epilepsy. He is a bright and sensitive child who is bullied at school. What’s an ex-boxer with a violent criminal record to do when his best friend trains boxers and his grandson is being bullied? You know where this is going, of course. Max is vague with Ezra about all the crimes that Max committed, but Max does admit to Ezra that he used to make money by beating up people for mobsters. Max also doesn’t deny it when Ezra asks if Max ever killed anyone.

The rest of “Prisoner’s Daughter” is a back-and-forth slog showing arguments of Max versus Maxine; Max versus Tyler; Maxine versus Tyler; and Tyler versus Max and Maxine. Ezra is often caught in the middle, while the adults often forget that Ezra’s needs, not their egos, should come first, although Maxine does make the best efforts out of the three adults to be a good parent. And you just know that big epileptic scene is coming, long before it happens.

Cox is doing yet another “tough old man” role. Beckinsale, no matter how hard she tries, is just not entirely convincing as a down-on-her-luck, working-class mother. Her scenes with Cox look too much like forced acting instead of being naturalistic. In real life, Ritter is the lead singer of the rock band The All-American Rejects, so he didn’t have to do much acting in portraying a musician. All of the cast members are, in one way or another, depicting not-very-interesting stereotypes with their “Prisoner’s Daughter” characters. It doesn’t help that the cast members have to say a lot of idiotic lines from the low-quality screenplay.

“Prisoner’s Daughter” is not the worst movie you could ever see. It’s just so lazy and unimaginative in its dialogue and story. The direction of “Prisoner’s Daughter” also lacks creativity and makes “Prisoner’s Daughter” look like one of those movies that gets dumped on a streaming service or third-tier cable network and is quickly forgotten. There are absolutely no surprises in “Prisoner’s Daughter,” which lays the melodrama on thick toward the end, but didn’t bother to make everything look authentic.

Vertical released “Prisoner’s Daughter” in select U.S. cinemas on June 30, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on July 18, 2023.

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