Adapted from the 2003 novel of the same name by Tom Holt, this adaptation is as confusing as it is tedious. Paul Carpenter (Patrick Gibson) awakens, the alarm clock blaring, indicating late for a generic job interview at an unbranded coffee chain. Having a character wake to the close-up of an alarm clock is a red flag for any amateur filmmaker. Yet, director Jeffrey Walker continues unaware of his faux pas.
Stepping off the bus, Paul coincidentally finds himself delayed and encouraged subconsciously to arrive at a mystical institution, J.W. Wells & Co., tasking him to source the missing portable door hidden somewhere in their own institution.
Riffing from John Carpenter‘s They Live, the production design of The Portable Door reminds audiences in every possible way that no decision is ever made of free will, whilst agents encourage life to follow a predetermined timeline, acting as a child-friendly TVA from Marvel’s Loki. But, much like the downfall of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, revealing the beats in act one, telling the audience precisely the deterministic story, and the inevitable love interest with Sophie (Sophie Wilde), means that we are left twiddling our thumbs, waiting to gain natural passage to the Realm of the Dead, something only the titular shapeshifting-towel door has access to.
It is then put onto the shoulders of Sam Neill and Christoph Waltz to salvage the film’s arduous story. Waltz, acting as villainous CEO Humphrey Wells, and Neill as his lackey, Dennis, are collecting the souls of the human race as we mortals agree to conditions hidden within the terms of contracts in case you need any more of a reason to showcase how yawn-inducing it is.
There is so much happening in every scene, with characters, information or concepts. Yet, nothing ever works, which is disappointing given Neill and Waltz are joined by comedic powerhouse Rachel House whose sarcasm and wit, evidenced in Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Disney’s Soul, would be enough to salvage the film had she not been reduced to the most fleeting of supporting roles.
With the inclusion of The Jim Henson Company co-producing and responsible for character design, thankfully, there is something visually interesting going on, especially its door-themed purgatory that would give Monsters Inc a run for its money.
For a film full of potential, it is confusing how a movie failed to do anything substantial, and whilst I’d like to assume that it’s circumstantial, if there’s anything this film taught me: behind every coincidence, is someone influencing decisions.
The Portable Door is available to watch exclusively on Sky Cinema and on NOW from 7 April.
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