Like soda kept out for too long, Charles Enterprises eventually loses its fizz. Subhash Lalitha Subhrahmanian’s Malayalam comedy, which is out in cinemas, has a bunch of superb actors led by the redoubtable Urvashi and every intention to make the most of a threadbare plot.

The 120-minute film begins with a fable about a stolen Ganpati idol. That prized representation of the deity has landed up in the Kochi house of the gormless Ravi (Balu Varghese) and his deeply religious mother Gomathi (Urvashi). Ravi has a night blindness problem, which perhaps explains his lack of self-confidence.

The god who is venerated as the remover of obstacles tempts Ravi when he needs money. He is coincidentally approached by a pair of antique smugglers, but he struggles with his conscience. The thief Charles (Kalaiyarasan) turns up in Ravi’s hour of need.

Subhrahmanian adds layers to his story except where it is needed the most. Several actors turn up for small but memorable roles – the married neighbour who openly flirts with Ravi, the colleague who has a crush on him, the dim-witted local uncles. The humorous patter, lovingly observed local detail and easy-going rhythm are not enough to boost a movie that threatens to open up but never quite does.

Charles Enterprises (2023).