Who Invited Charlie? feels like the pandemic version of Uncle Buck and that’s not a bad thing. familiar with the trope, an unsuspecting family gets an unwanted visitor who they can’t stand but slowly teaches them to loosen up and laugh and love. It’s well honed territory, and can provide a good base but there’s some character building that’s sacrificed in the narrative.
Charlie (Adam Pally) is a bearded, pot smoking, eternal bar tab type of guy who runs into his old friend Phil (Reid Scott) in a chance encounter. Phil is chasing his girlfriend and causes trouble with some street-tuffs. Charlie intervenes and Reid promises Charlie that he owes him one. During this time we learn that Charlie and Phil had a falling out though Charlie seems more than fine to put it behind him while Phil is his usual brand of resistant.
The pandemic is looming and the information has everyone confused. Phil decides to take his wife Rosie (Jordana Brewster) and son Max (Peter Dager) to their lake house to quarantine until covid blows over. Enter a surprise visit from Charlie, asking to stay with the family. Now, I know the convention of his arrival is what the entire plot is hinged on, but there’s absolutely no way I would have let him in my house, especially at the time. The true reason hinges on a twist that’s not revealed until the final moments and the film suffers from it.
Charlie’s behavior is beyond inappropriate, it’s incomprehensible. The only time we see him being an adult is during his delightful conversations with neighbor Emma (Xosha Roquemore). Other times it’s a very slow burn to accept Charlie, but when you do, it’s very easy to root for him. Especially when you find out more about the dissolution of the friendship between him and Phil.
There are conventions that are leaned on. A key piece of information is revealed by Charlie, but the leap that was made to paint Charlie as the screw-up was very thin. In fact, the narrative attempts to paint Charlie as being a nuisance but Pally doesn’t seem to have the same impression and the character feels uneven as a result.
Though, for its slight weaknesses, there are moments of Who Invited Charlie? that are heart-touching and poignant. Once Charlie begins to acclimate to his new surroundings, the bonding moments between himself and Rosie and then Max are really well done. To tug on the nostalgic pandemic heartstrings, key moments of celebrating our first responders were thrown in and extremely effective.
Overall Who Invited Charlie? is a sweet watch with underrated performances. It remembers the point of the pandemic where we remembered our humanity and it can be a really nice reminder.
Who Invited Charlie? is available now on VOD.