Stephen Fry stars in "Doors Open." (Sprout Pictures / Ovation…)
With a ferociously sharp mind tempered by a more forgiving exterior -- those basset hound eyes, that creamy-porridge voice -- British actor/writer/game show host/Twitter impresario Stephen Fry is one of life's guaranteed pleasures; I'd willingly watch him read the phone book.
Which, unfortunately, is pretty much what he does in "Doors Open," an adaption of an Ian Rankin thriller of the same name debuting on the Ovation network Saturday night at 8 p.m. Or rather an art catalog; in "Doors Open" Fry plays Robert Gissing, an art professor living in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he delivers lectures, curates the collection of a civic-minded bank and trades auction notes with pal and electronics entrepreneur Mike Mackenzie ("Primeval's" Douglas Henshall). As the action opens, Mike is brushing up on his brush strokes to impress Robert's friend Laura ("Being Human's" Lenora Crichlow), a comely collector and auctioneer.
For no real reason at all except convenience, five years pass in the blink of an eye. Mike and Laura have split and Gissing's bank is hitting hard times. Not only does Robert and Mike's mutual pal Alan (Kenneth Collard) face being sacked, Robert's beloved collection is slated for sale at the hands of the gleaming Bruce (Elliot Cowan of "Da Vinci's Demons"), who just happens to now be engaged to Laura.
So what are three thwarted gentlemen brooding in a pub supposed to do? Plan an art heist, of course, by improbably leveraging Mike's recent fortune (while banks fail, he just sold his company for millions) and his old neighborhood and mildly underworld connections.
Yes, the story is that contrived, which is a pity and a shame considering the cast, fine actors all. But "Doors Open" (which refers to a day in Edinburgh when public institutions open their private collections) is quite ridiculous, with neither humor nor nifty heist planning to liven it up. The caper costumes may be mildly amusing, but even the sight of a long-haired Fry is a one-trick ponytail; the actual characters are as one-dimensional as they come.
It's no spoiler alert to say a plot twist you see a mile away allows them all happy endings -- "Doors Open" was spoiled long before I watched it. But watch it I did, from beginning to end, and not because it's my job but because I mean what I say about Fry. Although I think a phone book would have given him more to work with.
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