Dough

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - — Lau­rel Glad­den

DOUGH, com­edy, not rated, The Screen, 2.5 chiles

“A Jewish baker and an Mus­lim refugee walk into a bak­ery…” Sounds like the setup to a corny old joke, right? Well, it’s also the be­gin­ning of a plot sum­mary for this light­hearted but ul­ti­mately flat movie from John Gold­schmidt. Hon­estly, the joke prob­a­bly would’ve been fun­nier.

Cur­mud­geonly wid­ower Nat Dayan (Jonathan Pryce) owns a strug­gling kosher bak­ery. A lo­cal de­vel­oper named Sam Cot­ton (Philip Davis) heads a huge cor­po­rate chain and is schem­ing to snatch up Nat’s bak­ery or drive him out of busi­ness. Nat gets no sup­port from his son, a high-pow­ered lawyer who has no in­ter­est in the fam­ily busi­ness and just wants his fa­ther to sell out and re­tire. When Nat’s as­sis­tant quits and takes a job with Cot­ton, Nat hires Ayyash (Jerome Holder), a Mus­lim refugee from Dar­fur, not re­al­iz­ing the kid plans to use the job as a cover for his other gig, sell­ing mar­i­juana. You can see the hi­jinks com­ing from a mile away: Some weed ends up in the chal­lah dough, and sud­denly Nat’s bread is fly­ing off the shelf.

Writ­ers Jonathan Benson and Jez Freed­man couldn’t leave well enough alone, though, di­lut­ing the simple, silly story of a drug-fu­eled screw­ball com­edy with warmed-over lessons about re­li­gious and racial tol­er­ance. Nat is an old Bri­tish Jew; Ayyash is a young African Mus­lim. Nev­er­the­less, af­ter some awk­ward mo­ments and mis­un­der­stand­ings, they de­velop an odd-cou­ple friendship — be­cause, hey, it turns out that Jews and Mus­lims ac­tu­ally have things in com­mon, like pri­or­i­tiz­ing faith and fam­ily, and an old man can ac­tu­ally learn a thing or two from a young whip­per­snap­per and vice versa. There’s noth­ing wrong with a hope­ful mes­sage about unity, es­pe­cially in these com­pli­cated times, but couldn’t they find a fresher way of de­liv­er­ing it?

Oth­er­wise-gritty sit­u­a­tions (mostly those to do with the drug trade) feel non­threat­en­ing, and the fact that dozens of peo­ple un­wit­tingly in­gest pot-laden bread is ut­terly im­plau­si­ble (not to men­tion that dump­ing a bag of shake into some dough isn’t how ed­i­bles are made any­way). A few un­nec­es­sary mi­nor sub­plots — in­volv­ing Pauline Collins as a des­per­ate, lonely widow and Ian Hart as Ayyash’s dealer — just dis­tract.

Per­for­mances help keep things aright. Pryce is won­der­ful as al­ways, bal­anc­ing sober sin­cer­ity with light­heart­ed­ness, seen dur­ing in­ter­ac­tions with his grand­daugh­ter and some silly an­tics in­volv­ing an ex­er­cise ball. He and Holder have a be­liev­able, dy­namic fa­ther-and-son-style chem­istry. Collins holds her own, de­spite her one-note role.

Of course, you know where the story is headed: Char­ac­ters will en­dure hard­ships, learn lessons, come to re­spect one another, and ul­ti­mately bond. Evil, greedy forces will be foiled. It’s too bad the mak­ers of Dough tossed so many good in­gre­di­ents into the mix, be­cause what they ended up with is mostly stale.

Half-baked: Jerome Holder and Jonathan Pryce

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