UK Release Date: 2nd June 2017
Runtime: 95 minutes
Director: John Goldschmidt
Writer: Jonathan Benson, Jez Freedman
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Jerome Holder, Pauline Collins, Phil Davis, Ian Hart, Natasha Gordon, Andrew Ellis
Synopsis: A Jewish baker whose store is under threat from a retail magnate brings in a young Muslim apprentice who, unbeknownst to him, is baking cannabis into the dough.
With the political divisions of Brexit looming large over the United Kingdom, cinema has an important role to play in putting forward a message of tolerance and unity. Dough is a straightforwardly charming Britcom with an avuncular performance from Jonathan Pryce at its centre. It occasionally indulges in comedy clichés and wonky, misjudged jibes at edgier humour and doesn’t really have an original bone in its body, but it’s sweet-natured and silly enough to pass an enjoyably lightweight hour and a half.
Nat (Pryce) has been running his family bakery for years, but is forced to take on young Muslim apprentice Ayyash (Jerome Holder) when his business begins to take a downturn as a result of a new convenience store run by Sam Cotton (Phil Davis). Meanwhile, Ayyash has become involved with neighbourhood drug dealer Victor (Ian Hart) and, after some inadvertently cannabis-infused dough becomes a big seller, he decides to make a habit of feeding drugs to the regulars. Meanwhile, Nat’s landlord Mrs Silverman (Pauline Collins) is contemplating selling the land upon which the bakery is housed to Mr Cotton.
Dough is an entirely fluffy affair that only just about holds together. Director John Goldschmidt keeps the tone breezy, even as the script occasionally takes a strange dive into bizarre religiously-charged humour that never quite gels with the lightness of touch that Goldschmidt brings. The gentle banter between Pryce and Holder works nicely when it stays on the sweeter side of things, but there are occasional lapses into humour that just doesn’t sit well within the context of the film – particularly given its over-arching ethos of tolerance.
Pryce has enough class to hold the entire film in place. He brings a curmudgeonly gravitas to the central role, which is countered nicely by the easygoing youthful exuberance of Holder, who is Dough‘s secret weapon. Holder, who is still best known for his childhood role in The Story of Tracy Beaker on TV, brings real complexity to a fairly thinly-drawn role as a young man caught between the life of crime he was already tending towards and the wholesome alternative provided by Pryce and his bakery. The film positions their differing religious views as an initial obstacle to their friendship, but one they are ultimately able to overcome.
That level of complexity is absent from many of the supporting cast, with Phil Davis in particular falling into one-note villainy. One scene in which he shoves a woman’s pushchair over in a fit of rage is an almost laughable exercise in pantomime, moustache-twirling evil. Ian Hart – the former Professor Quirrell – gets far more to do as a genuinely scary drug dealer who is callously uncaring in bringing the likes of Holder’s character into his criminal ring.
Outside of the performances, though, Dough is able to carve its message of tolerance nicely into the relatively played-out tale of drugs in brownies and the plucky underdog being threatened by big business. This is a story in which people of different religions work together and it’s clearly a message that family and friendship is far more important than which God you worship. By the time one character spells out the film’s ideas with a zinger delivered in a final scene, its ethos has already become explicit – “Race or religion is irrelevant. If you’re a dickhead, you’re a dickhead.”
Pop or Poop?
It’s certainly lightweight and it doesn’t have all that much depth, but Dough is an amusing and entertaining film that creates likeable central characters who we want to see succeed. The direction is fairly straightforward and you’ll be able to plot out the story by yourself before the film even starts, but Pryce and Holder have enough chemistry to keep things moving.
There are a few too many clichés and a villain lacking in any humanity, but it’s warm and good-natured enough to be entertaining.
Dough is released in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on June 2, 2017.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.