The Portable Door (2023) poster

The Portable Door (2023)


Australia/USA. 2023.


Director – Jeffrey Walker, Screenplay – Leon Ford, Based on the Novel by Tom Holt, Producers – Todd Fellman & Blanca Lista, Photography – Donald M. McAlpine, Music – Benjamin Speed, Visual Effects Supervisor – Murray Pope, Visual Effects – Chrome Media, Concrete Wednesday Post Production, Future Associate (Supervisor – Lindsay Adams), Kanuka Studio (Supervisor – Rangi Sutton) & TedFX, Character Animation – Stage 23 (Supervisor – Christian Debney), Special Effects Supervisor – Angelo Sahin, Makeup Effects Design – Steve Boyle, Makeup & Goblin Effects – Formation Effects, Production Design – Matthew Putland. Production Company – Stan Original/The Jim Henson Company/Story Bridge Films.


Patrick Gibson (Paul Carpenter), Sophie Wilde (Sophie Pettingel), Christoph Waltz (Humphrey Wells/John Wells Snr), Sam Neill (Dennis Tanner), Rachel House (Professor Van Spee), Chris Pang (Casimir Suslowicz), Jessica De Gouw (Rosie), Miranda Otto (Countess Judy), Damon Herriman (Monty Smith-Gregg), Christopher Sommers (Arthur Tanner), Arka Das (Neville), Chris Story (Mr Roden)


Paul Carpenter applies for a job at J.W. Wells & Co in London and is surprised when he is taken on as a paid intern. He is placed in an office alongside fellow intern Sophie Pettingel, who is part of the fast track program, although it is not clear what either of them are meant to do in the company. Paul is then approached by the CEO Humphrey Wells and given a secret mission. Humphrey has lost his portable door somewhere in the building and wants Paul to find it, but the catch is it could look like anything. Paul begins searching but becomes aware there are secrets and even magical creatures in the building. He discovers the door – a towel that when held in the air will turn into a door and open a portal into any place that the person holding the handle names. Paul shows Sophie and they use it to amuse themselves visiting all over the world. However, doing so reveals to Paul that he has been chosen for a purpose and that there are sinister plots afoot in the company.

Now that the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film series has come to an end, The Portable Door could well serve to fill the void for those seeking a fix of something similar. It comes with a similar mix of elements to the Harry Potter series – a strange edifice of secrets (a company office instead of a boarding school); a line-up of eccentric supporting characters of enigmatic masteries (including Sam Neill as a troll!); magical secrets hidden in the building; and a young novice hero (a 28 year old Patrick Gibson rather than an adolescent Daniel Radcliffe) who has powers and has been chosen for a purpose he knows nothing about.

Oh and it is also based on a series of Young Adult books by Tom Holt, a British writer who specialises in humorous takes on regular fantasy tropes. Holt’s J.W. Wells & Co series began with The Portable Door (2003) and extends to eight books as of the film’s release. Despite being set in London and ostensibly British, the film is Australian-made and features a principally Australian cast and production crew.

The Portable Door is an okay production. A reasonable budget has been thrown at it, even if nowhere near the stratosphere of the Harry Potter films. The sets for the company look suitably strange and mysterious, while director Jeffrey Walker makes the magic goings-on seem suitably oddball. The Jim Henson Company co-produce the film and deliver the creature effects, although these are beneath their usual quality and look second-rate – the trolls look like failed werewolves.

Paul Carpenter (Patrick Gibson) and Dennis Tanner (Sam Neill) in The Portable Door (2023)
(l to r) The new intern Paul Carpenter (Patrick Gibson) with Dennis Tanner (Sam Neill)

As a Harry Potter wannabe, this gets there in sporadic moments. The film does seem to be setting up a wider universe. This does mean some aspects are introduced and just left hanging – we are introduced to a department that specialises in organising coincidences but this is forgotten about, while there is a mid-credits coda that seems to be setting events up for further stories.

Though produced for Australia’s Stan streaming service, the film was released theatrically in Australasia and some parts of Europe but earned slightly less than $700,000 total, before being released to streaming elsewhere. This means it is unlikely that we will ever see any other entries in the J.W. Wells & Co series.

Trailer here

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