Sky Originals never fail to disappoint. With a stacked cast and a poster which features them in all the novelty glitter associated with Roald Dahl, The Portable Door captures its sickly vision well enough. This is not Dahl, though. This is just the mess left over from David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny and other such mushroom clouds. Messy magic is not at all interesting as it locks Christopher Waltz away, this light and immediately fluffy, forgettable Archlight feature shows just how bad a first day on the job can be for interns. Bet they’re unpaid, too. In character that is, it is unlikely Patrick Gibson and Sophie Wilde, who portray the newcomers to the strange and stupid world of J.W. Wells in a quick-cut editing style that sees the mundane made most frustrating indeed. Snapping laces, burning toast, anything that can go wrong does go wrong.
Fumbling that feel with a mid-2000s Tim Burton soundtrack and the attempt at making London look lovely is a hard-pressed task that convinces of very little. “There is no such thing as a coincidence,” a bus advert reads in a background shot. Yes, there is. No matter. Tom Holt’s fluffy book is adapted with the same aplomb and confidence Horrid Henry The Movie surely had. Damon Herriman makes for such a brief opening spot in the film but highlights every problem with it. Rabid ravings of detail after detail, thrown at a character who clearly has no recollection of events past, present or future. It is a similar feeling watching The Portable Door, which to those who do not have the time to read every book under the sun, will feel somewhat lost here. That is the fault of director Jeffrey Walker, whose script and pacing do not match up with what the target audience can survive.
Still, the target audience is not miserably tired journalists with deadlines to meet. The Portable Door does not know what a coincidence is. That is what can be surmised from every corner of the dull grey streets that Sam Neill and Waltz are protected from. Chance encounters are not chance but the future revealing itself through magic. The Portable Door becomes frustratingly dull as it repeats this over and over. Musical cues are constant, empty and filter through that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory woe is me in the wobbly house with paint for dinner and a curtain for a blanket. Patrick Gibson is not a confident or interesting lead, but that is more because his jumped-up Paddington Bear style coat hangs off of him in the opening moments and the knitwear hero is no real match for the heavy-hitting duo of Neill and Waltz.
Even they struggle, and expectedly so. This is a feature that requires little effort from those involved because what they are presented with is of little inspiration. Neill, with a magnificent beard which lends his character to being named Wadsworth or working at a tailor chain in a Kingsman spin-off, is always a pleasure. Even when he is at his worst, which is still better than most. His consistencies are a saving grace for The Portable Door, which scuppers the chance it has at magical movements and delicate worldbuilding by predicting itself to fail. It expects nothing will come of this and shoots everything it can into the near two-hour spectacle that fails to capture any style beyond a budget rendition of Harry Potter without the ambiguity or ensemble. It feels sickly in that Christopher Robin or Mary Poppins Returns style.