Movie Review: Who Invited Charlie?

Remember 2020? It was the end of the world; hand sanitiser was the hottest new item, and going without a face mask made you feel like you were streaking in the middle of a shopping mall. It’s not a time that anyone necessarily wants to go back to, and to tell you the truth, the anxiety and unease caused by the pandemic never really went away. Is there a need for stuff that takes place during a period that was so strange and terrifying?

It seems like only yesterday that we were spraying cleaning solutions on our products and had panic attacks whenever we wanted to touch a doorknob; even though it has been around three years since the initial shock and paranoia of it all, it has only been about three years. Who Invited Charlie?, an independent dramatic comedy, dispels any apprehensions about watching a film set during the COVID era and, more significantly, gives Adam Pally the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities as an actor.

Who Invited Charlie? Trailer


Who Invited Charlie?, written by Nicholas Schutt and directed by Xavier Manrique, is very much in the same vein as films such as What About Bob? and Uncle Buck, as Manrique has called them. The status quo of a dynamic that appears to be content is shaken up by an external force, which then has unanticipated but, in the end, welcomes long-term effects on everyone concerned. In this case, the person who acts as a disruptor is Charlie, performed magnificently by Pally. Charlie shows up uninvited during March 2020, which was a time when turning up somewhere unannounced may be fatal.

A few months previously, Charlie had a chance encounter with Phil (Reid Scott), an old friend and roommate from college. Charlie had known Phil since college. Charlie’s bushy beard, chubby tummy, and bright red hat contrast Phil’s clean-cut, rigid, investment banker look. Charlie’s beard is much longer than Phil’s, and Charlie’s beanie is much brighter. In contrast to Phil’s demeanour, which is more akin to that of a frustrated parent who is unsure what to make of this child, Charlie’s reaction to Phil’s appearance is akin to the joyous reunion of a lost pet with its owner.


It is unknown why they lost connection at this point, but Charlie certainly made an effort to get in touch with them again. After getting into a fight on the street with a group of Santas, Phil loses his wallet, which Charlie manages to find but does not immediately return to him. Instead, he steals it and walks away with a chip on his shoulder, only to come back during a time when nobody wants to be around anyone.

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Despite the fact that the film dives headfirst into COVID panic nostalgia at the beginning, this aspect of the tale is rapidly relegated to the background. The core family, which consists of Phil’s wife Rosie (played by Jordana Brewster) and their high school senior son Max (played by Peter Dager in his first role in a feature film), are introduced to us in the midst of a frenzy as they rush to pack their belongings from their lavish New York apartment to flee to their even more gorgeous home in the Hamptons.

The uncertainty brought on by the pandemic amplifies the anxiety that the three of them have become accustomed to enduring. Why does their neighbour’s mask appear like it was designed for someone to go exploring in Chernobyl? Why are they even wearing masks? Who among the courageous is going to press the button for the elevator? Max, who is highly apprehensive and socially uncomfortable, is getting ready to attend boarding school. His cynical and realistic father never seems to realize the inevitable separation anxiety that Max will experience. All of this hangs over Max’s head.

Charlie’s unexpected and unwelcome return is disconcerting for many different reasons. To begin, it is the middle of the night, and, as the phrase in the title implies, he is not invited to the party. Phil’s wife and son have no idea who their husband is. Charlie carries a lot of baggage (both physically and emotionally), and he is the polar opposite of Phil in terms of disposition and appearance. Charlie is a burden. Charlie is unwillingly permitted to move in until the pandemic is over since Charlie has some dirt on Phil. Charlie establishes some ground rules, which delightfully preview the dysfunction that is to come.


Pally does not waste any time reiterating that he is one of the wittiest and most dynamic comedic actors now working. He presents us with a simultaneously lighthearted performance tinged with melancholy. Charlie is always prepared to lend a hand with any kind of home improvement job or offer advice on life that is surprisingly insightful. His comments are partially him being casual and uncensored, and partly him trying to appear more confident than he actually is.

He does not begin his mornings with a cup of coffee like most people do because getting up and making breakfast is more of a habit for him than drinking coffee first thing in the morning. It appears that he made a concerted effort to create humorously mismatched clothing, both in terms of the patterns and the styles, because it is impossible to imagine him doing it accidentally. Pally provides an exuberant and appealing energy to the home that subverts any stoner clichés even though Charlie could appear to be a less-than-ideal house guest on paper.

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The self-absorbed and avaricious nature of Reid Scott’s character Dan Egan from Veep seems to have been carried over into his role as Phil. Phil is not a figure we want to root for, and there is a good probability that you will not ever want to root for him, owing to the various discoveries that have been made regarding his history with Charlie. Scott can reveal a more vulnerable part of himself due to Charlie’s influence since it acts as a wake-up call for his friend from college who is inflexible. Rosie is a character that, sadly, spends a significant portion of the movie in the background, but Jordana Brewster gives a lively and sharp edge to the role that she plays.

In most cases, Rosie’s frustration stems from either Phil’s physical or emotional absence, or she worries about how well her son will adjust to life at boarding school. But as Charlie demonstrates a genuine interest in how she and Phil originally met and a general interest in her, Brewster’s Rosie is finally ready to open up and share her thoughts and feelings. Considering that she didn’t want Charlie in her house in the first place, it’s especially cute to see the two of them “fight” about which city is better, the Bronx or New Jersey, while comparing the two places.

However, the portion of the movie that concentrates on the developing friendship between Charlie and Max is where the movie shines the brightest. The crippling anxiety that the high school senior has allows him to feel the least uncomfortable when conversing with his best and only buddy, Sanjay, or sitting alone in his room. Max musters up the courage to talk to his father’s old friend after witnessing Charlie charm their equally charming neighbour Emma (played by the delightful Xosha Roquemore). Charlie’s attempts to break the teenager out of his shell by slinging jokes prove painfully (and hilariously) futile at first.

However, once Max witnesses Charlie effortlessly charm their neighbour Emma, he musters up the courage to talk to his father’s old friend. What’s adorable is how Charlie treats Max as if they are also old friends, teasing him playfully for his serious demeanour and cold room of a guy who is “not quite a man…but not quite a boy.” This is a wonderful way for Charlie to interact with Max.

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The sequence that takes place in Max’s room marks the beginning of our in-depth familiarization with both Max and Charlie. Max can’t help but admit how fascinated he is by how different Charlie is from everyone else he knows, and he does not attempt to hide this fascination. When asked about his numerous tattoos, Charlie responds wittily, saying, “Yeah, I got enough tattoos to be a chef, but I don’t cook.” Each tattoo reveals a different chapter from Charlie’s troubled past and demonstrates how he figuratively and literally wears his emotions on his sleeve. “Because my father was a pilot, I decided to have that [tattoo of a plane] in his honor when he died away. “A pretty excellent pilot, but he’s better than a dad.” Although what he says may, occasionally, be tinged with melancholy, he never fails to conclude his statements with a gleeful grin and an incoherent cackle.


This is the beginning of an unexpected mentorship and a series of bonding experiences between the two, which include coming up with a meme to impress Max’s crush, prank-calling Phil while he is working, and, of course, belting out the classic song “Wonderwall” by Oasis from 1995. The fact that Charlie is fascinated by Max’s lack of knowledge about the ’90s serves as a humorous reminder of their significant age gap. “The 1990s are completely foreign to you! You’ve never heard of Jewel, have you?

The film’s central concept, which centres on a pandemic, is sidestepped for the most part, as you may have guessed by now. When Charlie goes to the shop or hesitates to hand a joint to Emma over the fence, we are brought back to the historical period. Still, other than that, the pandemic is a great method to get these personalities that would otherwise not be spending time together under one roof. Adam Pally’s performance as the goofy and generous house visitor is a pleasant reminder to lighten up about life and to value the aspects of oneself that one can take for granted.

The first question that may be asked in this movie is, “Who invited Charlie?” However, by the time the episode is over, Charlie will be the guest you look forward to spending time with and possibly gaining knowledge from.