- Jerome Holder (left) and Jonathan Pryce in Dough.
How much one is taken in by the charms of British import Dough depends largely on one's cinematic sweet tooth.
If predictability, political correctness and easy laughs without a hint of edge or darkness are not impediments to how much you enjoy a film, this tale of an unlikely friendship between an old Jewish baker and his young, African, Muslim refugee assistant might make for a pleasurable 90 minutes at the movies.
If, on the other hand, you're naturally repelled by saccharine storylines, improbable plot twists and sitcom-level comedy, Dough doesn't rise to anything worth spending your money on.
That's no fault of the stars, who do their best to lend some gravitas to the feather-light stakes. Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Brazil) plays the old kosher baker Nat Dayan, a widower struggling to keep his family business afloat as a chain grocery store moves into the neighborhood. Opposite the film veteran is Jerome Holder, making his feature debut as Ayyash, a refugee from Darfur who takes an apprenticeship with Nat as a cover for his real job — dealing marijuana for a dangerous small-time criminal as a way to help his mother pay the rent and make up for the lost income of an absentee father.
Pryce and Holder have a nice chemistry as their characters discover that, despite their differences in age, race and religion, they're both honorable, hardworking men. Writers Yehudah Jez Freedman and Jonathan Benson lay on the bonding a bit thick, having the duo go from wary strangers to virtual family in hyperspeed. While that's a bit hard to believe, it's just one of the problems with Dough.
More difficult is the main plot, in which Ayyash accidentally spills some weed into the dough as he learns to bake. The laced muffins, croissants and challah loaves become so popular that Nat's bakery becomes front-page news in the local paper, as Ayyash continues to infuse the goods after he sees how well they sell.
That might be a decent setup for a stoner comedy, but in a movie that purports to meditate on deeper issues, it falls short. That failure is even more pronounced when Dough suddenly shifts into a caper flick for the last third, as the duo tries to hide what happened from the police and the villainous exec from the grocery chain trying to take over Nat's business.
Clearly, the filmmakers' hearts were in the right place with Dough, but the final product will leave you with the munchies for a much better movie. ♦