Review – It’s A Happy Day (“Fools Paradise”)

Charlie Day certainly has made quite a name for himself. Besides being a regular cast member on the popular TV show, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Day has made several hilarious movies like Horrible Bosses 1 & 2, Fist Fight, and made a very funny showing in Pacific Rim.

A vanity project by Day (he wrote & directed this), the original title was El Tonto until filmmaker Guillermo DelToro told him to change it. Taking a premise from films like The Patsy, Being There, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and Mr. Bean (with some Charlie Chaplin thrown in for good measure), Day plays two roles: a pain-the-ass actor and his look-a-like, a recently released mute mental patient. But this story is shared by Day and Ken Jeong who plays Lenny, a thoroughly obnoxious publicist (who is never without an energy drink!) who accidentally stumbles onto this mute man after he’s thrown onto the Hollywood movie set of Billy the Kid by a crazed producer (Ray Liotta in his final film role). Through a set of wild circumstances, he’s given the name Latte Pronto and the movie is completed after the main star dies.

What happens in the second act is something straight out of the Twilight Zone via a Jerry Lewis vehicle. Billy the Kid is hailed as genius and Latte a megastar overnight, no part in thanks to the non-stop yakking of Lenny. Latte has also found favor with his co-stars on the film, alcoholic and intense Chad Luxt (Adrien Brody) and in-the-moment Christiana Dior (Kate Beckinsale). Even though Latte never speaks, everyone assumes he’s talking and he gets into some crazy situations, and every one of them he has no control of! Soon he gets an agent (Edie Falco) and a new movie to shoot, an MCU-style epic called Mosquito Boy directed by nutty Lex Tanner (Jason Sudeikis). And all the while Lenny is right there trying to leech a piece of whatever action Latte is getting.

As funny and hyper-surrealistic as the second act is, the third act slips and falls apart, much like Latte’s life in this classic ‘rags to riches to rags’ story. Plot threads meander and go nowhere and it seems that Day had a problem trying to come up with a proper ending, which is a real shame as the first two acts were so bizarre and outrageous in its comedy. I guess Day couldn’t sustain that level of weirdness going into the third act. Bummer. As an actor, Day is very good at conveying his emotions without a word, and casting a bunch of his friends helped, too. His direction is pretty standard with only a few nice touches here and there; it seems he pads out many scenes with shots of nighttime L.A. scenery.

Aside from Day and Jeong, who are very good, the major standouts are all the costars. Adrien Brody is hilarious as the Method actor with a penchant for drinking and spouting philosophy. Beckinsale is also a riot as she steals every scene. The late Ray Liotta is wonderful and look for a nice cameo by John Malkovich who is always a welcome treat. There is a whole plot thread with Common that is completely wasted (he deserves more) and Jillian Bell’s quick cameo as a Shaman was gold. For his first theatrical release as a writer/director, Day has given us a pretty darn good film, but I think with his next one (saying that he does another one) he can iron out the kinks.  

**Now showing only in theaters

The Patsy (1964)

Jerry Lewis. Love him or hate him, the man raised the bar of slapstick to near-mythic proportions. Like Charlie Chaplin, Lewis wrote, produced, directed, and starred in almost all of his movies. BTW: did you know he invented ‘video-assist’ for the movie camera? Yeah, he did that.

From 1960-70 (his best decade of movies ever!), this one sticks out because, well, it wasn’t his best. . . but it wasn’t his worst, either. In this movie, Jerry repeats his usual trademark act: a buffonish numbskull clown, this time it’s a hotel bellboy named Stanley Belt. Now, if that name sounds familiar, it should. He played a hotel bellboy named Stanley in his 1960 movie, The Bellboy, and this was supposed to be a sequel called Son of Bellboy. Anyway, after some world-famous comedian dies, his six yes-men need a new meal ticket and decide to carry on by grabbing a nobody and grooming him to be another world-famous comedian. And who should walk in at this point? Bumbling, stumbling, goofball Stanley! Surprise! Immediately, Stanley is coerced by ringleader Caryl Fergusson (Everett Sloane), writer Chic Wymore (Phil Harris), media man Harry Silver (Keenan Wynn), wardrobe Bruce Alden (John Carradine), agent Morgan Heywood (Peter Lorre), and songwriter Ellen Betz (Ina Balin).

What proceeds next (a staple of Lewis’ films) is a series of skits & vignettes where Stanley undergoes his new “transformation” into a media sensation through song, stage, and publicity manipulation. After a new wardrobe & haircut, he gets a voice lesson from Prof. Mulerr (Hans Conried), records a very silly pop record, and spectacularly fails at stand-up comedy at a nightclub. He meets Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper at a swanky party, falls in love with Ellen (naturally), and finally gets a TV contract to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show where, hilariously enough, Ed parodies himself doing his own introduction! Back in 1964, Jerry’s wild and out-of-control mugging to the camera was his bread & butter and delighted audiences. Today, however, it’s a bit dated with only some of his antics being funny to watch.

Personally, this one wasn’t his best. His 1960 The Bellboy was much better, as were his others like The Nutty Professor, The Ladies Man, The Errand Boy, and Visit To A Small Planet. Written by Lewis and Bill Richmond (1996 The Nutty Professor), most of the comedy is pure slapstick and schtick; a perfect vehicle for Lewis’ talents as he manages to get in a few silent skits with music only (like Chaplin did). As you can expect, much of Jerry’s humor is subjective. Some are cringe-worthy (the nightclub), others LOL (the vocal lesson with Prof. Mulerr). A few “skits” last a couple of minutes, while some others are only seconds long. Then there’s the “plot” which is threadbare at best, having one huge head-scratcher: how the hell could Ellen ever fall for a brain-dead lunatic like Stanley? I mean, really?!

Still, Jerry does throw in a lot of his friends who make cameos and that’s kinda cool to see. Plus, this was Peter Lorre’s final film. *sad emoji* If you really want to laugh, however, check out Jerry’s previous movie, 1960’s The Bellboy. Shot in glorious black & white and on location in Florida, that film was unique, funny, and had a better story with better skits. And Jerry, as the Bellboy, never speaks until the end! It’s one of my favorite Jerry Lewis films.    

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