In director Jim Archer’s new film Brian and Charles, Brian is a lonely middle-aged man living in rural England. Despite his dreary surroundings, he keeps himself busy as an inventor.
While Brian has a fantastic imagination, his inventions are less than stellar. He invented a bag with pinecones glued to it, a cuckoo clock on a bicycle, and various other completely useless devices.
One day Brian gets inspiration to build a robot, so he gathers the essential components – a washing machine, a mannequin head, gloves, and various other pieces of junk. Despite the rather questionable technology, the robot actually comes to life and works.
Brian joyfully realizes he now has a friend. As the robot becomes fully sentient, it begins speaking and chooses the name “Charles.”
Brian’s joy soon turns to concern as he realizes he must hide Charles from the local villagers, particularly the local bully and his family. But Brian’s concern soon comes into conflict with Charles’ desire to explore the world.
As tension between Brian and Charles builds, Brian soon finds that the robot is pulling him out of his shell and into a world he’s been hiding from.
If you like quirky comedies like Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre or Flight of the Concords, then Brian and Charles may be of interest to you. It has the same bizarre, dry sense of humor of its predecessors and offers a lot of fun moments. You only have to look at the robot Charles to get what it’s all about.
Featuring a bizarre mannequin head, a boxy body, and a XXXL sized sweater, it’s absurd to think it could be the most advanced AI on the planet. Yet not only does the audience buy it, but we fall in love with Charles along the way.
Performed by writer Chris Hayward, Charles is kind of a junk-pile Pinocchio. He wants to be real, he rebels against his creator, and he wants to experience the world. Charles is so ridiculous you can’t help but smile every time he’s on the screen.
Paired with David Earl (also a co-writer) as Brian, the two are a hilariously awkward team. Brian is a bit of an idiot, but a cheerful, likable and endlessly optimistic idiot. His positivity is infectious and immediately endears him to the audience.
When Charles forces him out into the world, Brian is forced to share his secret with Louise Brealey as Hazel. Thus ensues and funny and awkward romance that drives the latter half of the film.
The whole thing culminates to a feel good ending that leaves you walking out of the theater on a high note.
As enjoyable as Brian and Charles is, the trailer shows most of the film. Most of the beats of the story are spoiled in the preview and the few that aren’t are predictable. Matters aren’t helped by slow pacing in the middle of the film and a simplistic plot that doesn’t really take the concept to the next level.
As a final nitpick, the camerawork is so shaky on the big screen it starts making you a bit motion sick.
Complaints aside, Brian and Charles is a fun and quirky comedy the likes of which we haven’t seen for a while. It is worth checking out if you are looking for a light film with some fun laughs.
Opening in theaters on June 17, Focus Features‘ Brian and Charles is rated PG for language, mild violence, and smoking. The film also stars Louise Brealey, James Michie and Nina Sosanya.