Life & Culture

Film review: The Portable Door - A Potteresque mystery

Adaptation of the first book of Tom Holt’s J.W. Wells & Co. book series is fun but has too much going on all the time to fully work


Based on the best selling book series by Tom Holt, this family comedy invites you into a world of fantasy and madness where all coincidences are orchestrated by a very strange company. In The Portable Door, Paul Carpenter (Gibson) and Sophie Pettingel (Wilde) are the lowly, put-upon interns who begin working at the mysterious London firm J.W. Wells & Co. and become steadily aware that their employers are anything but conventional. Charismatic villains Humphrey Wells (Waltz), the CEO of the company and middle manager Dennis Tanner (Neill) are disrupting the world of magic by bringing modern corporate strategy to ancient magical practices, and Paul and Sophie discover the true agenda of the vast corporation where they work.

The Portable Door
Cert: PG | ★★★✩✩

Australian-born filmmaker Jeffrey Walker directs this Harry Potter-esque adaptation of the first book of Tom Holt’s J.W. Wells & Co. book series.

Patrick Gibson stars as Paul Carpenter, a hapless young man who becomes a new intern at the mysterious London firm which blends magic with modern business. .

Recruited by boss Humphrey Wells (Christoph Waltz), Paul is paired up with straight A recruit Sophie Pettingel (played impeccably by Australian actress Sophie Wilde) who takes a dislike to her new companion, but later bonds with him.

The pair quickly become aware that their new job is anything but normal. When Sophie is headhunted by the Department of Coincidence to arrange a meet-cute between two people, Paul becomes increasingly intrigued by the firm.

Charged by the mission of hunting for the world’s most powerful and coveted item — The Portable Door — Paul finds himself dragged into a dangerous mission that is likely to end badly for him and Sophie.

Despite some stellar performances from Gibson, Wilde and acting legend Sam Neill as Dennis Tanner — a shapeshifting goblin and senior partner on the board of JW Wells & Co — The Portable Door just feels a little too old-fashioned, with an uneven story.

Screenwriter Leon Ford wastes a fair amount of time on an overlong and jarringly over-descriptive prologue that feels superfluous. In the end, we are left wishing for the whole thing to hurry up and put us out of our misery.

The Portable Door isn’t exactly terrible, but it isn’t very good. Granted, it’s a welcome change from the usual box-office superhero fodder we are served at this time of the year, but there is just too much going on here all the time for the film to fully work.

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