If The Whale could vault Brendan Fraser back into the national consciousness and ultimately result in the comeback of an actor who experienced a hellish whirlwind of circumstances in his private life, I don’t see why The Court Jester can’t work twofold for both its subject and its lead actor.
Richard Simmons, the flamboyant fitness guru famous for his dozens of workout tapes and DVDs, has been something of a recurring focal point of the internet masses since he suddenly disappeared from the public eye in the early 2010s. Pauly Shore, the former MTV VJ and leading man in numerous silly, stoner comedies in the 1990s, has remained active on the touring circuit in the present day, but his presence in feature films has been spotty for two decades now. The Court Jester, a short film that sets the stage for a potentially full-length biopic on Simmons with Shore at the center, could be the renaissance both men deserve.
The 10-minute short — which premiered on January 19th at The Cabin in Park City, Utah, adjacent to the ongoing Sundance Film Festival — is equal parts wholesome and uplifting. Director Jake Lewis drops us into the bustling backstage set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where Richard Simmons (Shore) is set to be a guest. He is promoting the fifth installment of his eminently popular Sweatin’ to the Oldies workout DVD. Trying to handle his role in the chaos is David (perennial background actor Jesse Heiman), a veteran crewmember who is treated like an intern navigating his first day on the job.
During a break, just as David is eyeing a tempting donut on the crafty table, Richard appears and does something to David nobody else seems to do: treat him like a human being. Richard can sense that David struggles with self-esteem issues, and he proceeds to give the man a pep-talk he so desperately needs.
Richard Simmons could very well be one of the heads on the Mount Rushmore of Kindness, alongside Mister Rogers and Bob Ross (the fourth figure is for you to decide). Shore captures Simmons’ gentle spirit, and the role permits Shore the opportunity to bring his oft-divisive physical comedy to the forefront. Shore looks the part of Simmons and captures his magnetic qualities in both exercise and human interaction. What started as the potential for a worthless Saturday Night Live skit could eventually turn into a reclamation project for both men.
The Court Jester has its foundation, its two core castmembers (Heiman included), and its tone already in place. It just needs some studio faith conditional that the project’s heart remains in the appropriate place.
NOTE: The Court Jester is available to watch on YouTube, free of charge.
Starring: Pauly Shore, Jesse Heiman, Tamra Brown, Benji Aflalo, Ronan Arthur, Alyce Saad, Jake Lewis, Austin Gelfman, Dawn Krantz, Michele Fried, Kore Black, and Cooper Shine. Directed by: Jake Lewis.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!