Knead for weed

Good-natured "Dough" chokes on cliches

The dope-y new comedy "Dough" suffers from a number of problems, among them its old-fashioned treatment of marijuana. Like TV's "Bates Motel," which labored to create high-stakes dread over an illegal marijuana operation in the 2010s, "Dough" tastes awfully stale in its dramatization of high times and underground illegality.

I use the term "dramatization" lightly, as the sit-comedic British film -- lazily scripted by Yehudah Jez Freedman and Jonathan Benson, and directed by TV vet John Goldschmidt -- pushes for lightheartedness and achieves a lightweightedness in the diminishing-returns tradition following "The Full Monty." International treasure Jonathan Pryce ("Brazil") stars as Nat Dayan, proprietor of the Jewish bakery Dayan and Son. Nat's the "Son," still nursing disappointment that his own son (Daniel Caltagirone) ditched the family trade to practice law. When we meet Nat, he's particularly peeved. With his business already squeezed, he loses his apprentice to Sam Cotton (Philip Davis), the neighboring corporate grocer who has long-since targeted Nat's shop as the last holdout in the way of Cotton consuming the entire block. Stop me if you've heard this one.

Enter teenage Darfur refugee Ayyash (appealing newcomer Jerome Holder), son of the shop's cleaning lady. Nat warily takes Ayyash on as his new baking apprentice, and the odd-couple comedy is off to the races. First, Nat realizes with horror that Ayyash is Muslim. Eventually he realizes how Ayyash has exponentially increased the shop's receipts: the part-time pot dealer accidentally dropped his stash into the challah dough and, endeared to Nat, decided to keep driving business with the pot he pledged to sell for his other hotheaded boss (Ian Hart).

Forget for a moment the unlikelihood of Ayyash recklessly endangering himself to increase the business of his irritable, pushing-70 Jewish boss. It's a fable of respect and tradition, okay? And forget the unlikelihood that ex-boxer Nat can remain clueless as long as he does, even after consuming the spiked challah at a rollicking family dinner. Hey, it's a comedy, alright? Save your suspension of disbelief for the climactic heist sequence, a break-in to Cotton's office that Nat and Ayyash engineer to retrieve the "smoking gun" evidence of Dayan and Son's illegal pot-edibles trade.

Look, those with a high tolerance for "nice" movies will happily roll with this "Dough." But know that it is proudly unsophisticated in its storytelling, with Cotton a stock villain short only the waxy-moustache-twirling and Hart a stereotypical drug-dealing bully. Can't anyone just be a legitimate businessman in this movie? And I haven't even mentioned the pushy widow (Pauline Collins, no less) trying to wear down the defenses of curmudgeonly widower Nat. The comedy is chuckle-worthy at best and the drama predictable in the extreme, so we're left to hold on to dear life to Pryce's talent and the forced wish-fulfillment of the burgeoning Jewish-Muslim collaboration.

Not MPAA rated. One hour, 34 minutes.


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