Dough Unfortunately Undercooked

Dough, a new British comedy set in present day London, strives to mix the feel good with the timely.  The film stars Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, “Game of Thrones”) as Nat, an aging Orthodox Jewish baker who’s struggling to keep his bakery afloat. Into the picture wanders Ayyash (Jerome Holder), a Muslim teenager struggling to find his place in the world. When Ayyash’s sensemilla falls into the challah dough one afternoon, the bakery unexpectedly becomes the culinary hit of the neighborhood, with lines snaking around the corner.

If that sounds like a goofy plot development, well, Dough is pretty goofy. Tonally it commits to keeping things light. Religious differences are (spoiler alert) overcome and the cavalcade of bad guys (there’s the ruthless business developer, the bad news drug dealer and the emotionally disconnected lawyer son) get what’s coming to them. Some of Dough’s pleasures feel wholly recycled yet still are fun, like the montage of old Jewish ladies giggling their heads off playing bridge. Other comedic set pieces fall flat, like when Nat joins a ladies’ pilates class in order to talk to his landlady and love interest Joanna (Pauline Collins). Pryce and Collins are delightful, experienced actors, but their characters are sketched so broadly they struggle to muster much chemistry. The film insists on playing their romance mostly for shallow laughs, with Joanna aggressively pouncing on the reluctant, widowed Stan.

Pryce is believably crusty and stuck in his ways, but is  an odd choice given his palpable WASPiness. Holder is a standout, imbuing his Ayyash with warmth and bringing believability to his character’s conflicting impulses. In the end, though, the screenplay (written Jonathan Benson and Jez Freeman) gets bogged down by predictable plot turns and stale characterizations. The actors do their best with the ingredients supplied, but in the end can’t quite provide the heat to get the whole affair to rise.

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