July 25, 2016
Seeing the British comedy “Dough” at a recent Jewish Film Festival reminded me of the annoying gap between film critics and film audiences.
How often have I heard the average movie goer complain about “elite critics who just can’t enjoy good entertainment”? We prefer Woody Allen while they prefer Michael Bay. Sometimes critics seem to be in an unwinnable war not only with filmmakers to make better films, but with audiences to help their pallet become more sophisticated.
“Dough” is the perfect example. As I sat there watching what to me seemed a mediocre, predictable, and clichéd movie, the audience around me laughed, cheered, and really enjoyed it. Is it them or is it me?
Can I say something positive about this film? Do I want to? Do I want to tear it to pieces? Do I want to tell this mass of people who were genuinely enjoying themselves that they were wrong; that this movie was a piece of trash?
Of course not. I’m not a sadist.
And, to be fair, the movie was far from garbage. It just wasn’t particularly good. It didn’t seem to have anything unique to say; it wasn’t sophisticated. But, after all, it was just a comedy. It wasn’t intended to enlighten; just to make people laugh. And while the jokes didn’t come every minute, it did have a few good Jewish-themed zingers that made me laugh out loud.
“Dough” tells the unlikely story of a Jewish bakery that is losing business. Owner Nat Dayan (Jonathan Pryce) is tempted to sell until business suddenly picks up when his assistant Ayyash (Jerome Holder), who is a Muslim refugee from Darfur, accidently drops his stash of marijuana into the dough. Suddenly, everyone wants the bakery’s challah, though they don’t know why.
The rest of the plot is predictable: religious, generational, and racial divides will be bridged; the secret will come out; Nat and Ayyash will have a falling out; Nat and Ayyash will make up; the bakery will be saved by a zany sequence in which Nat and Ayyash have to dress up as janitors; the evil drug dealer and the evil real estate developer will be taken down; Nat and Ayyash will find happy endings; and most of the audience will leave feeling delighted but will have forgotten the movie 24 hours later.
Oops—spoiler warning. Sorry. Hope I didn’t give too much away.
Look, if you enjoyed the film, who am I to say there’s something wrong with just plain, feel-good, mediocre entertainment. I realize that not everything has to mean something—sometimes weed is just weed.
I just wish some films could be better. And audiences less forgiving. That’s the critic in me.
“Dough” will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on August 2.
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