Danny Deckchair

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 12/20/04 20:18:08

"A pleasantly sweet good time."
3 stars (Just Average)

Miranda Otto has a natural beauty that can best be described as heart-melting. It is for her that I recommend seeing “Danny Deckchair.” But then, I’d recommend a movie of her just staring at the camera for an hour and a half, too, because, hey, it might not be great cinema, but it’d be ninety minutes well spent.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m also recommending “Danny” because of its sweetness. The film may be too predictable and overly familiar, but there’s a charm here that, like the underrated “The Majestic,” looks to emulate the feel of a Frank Capra movie. We even get the big Gary Cooper speech where Rhys Ifans talks about the power and greatness of the everyman. One almost expects Longfellow Deeds or Jefferson Smith to stop by for a visit.

The high concept conceit of the plot: Danny (Ifans) is a construction man whose life is fading into a rut; to break the monotony of a dying relationship with girlfriend Trudy (Justine Clarke), he’s always concocting some invention-fueled scheme (the “human slingshot,” for example). His latest notion is to tie a case of helium-filled ballons to his lawn chair, just to see what happens. What happens, indeed, is that he flies halfway across Australia, before crashing down into the small town of Clarence - and into the backyard of the lovely Glenda (Otto).

That it takes the movie a full one-third of its running time just to get us to the actual story doesn’t hurt it as much as you’d think. We enjoy spending our time with Danny and his friends, and although the plot bit about Trudy having an affair with the local TV sportscaster goes on a smidge too long, Ifans’ delightful meanderings pick up the slack.

Where the film finally kicks in is in the Clarence scenes. This is one of those small towns that only exists in the movies, where everyone is a good friend and even the rare bad guy is a good guy. It’s a bit of movie preposterousness, as is the idea that Danny opts to play up the chance at a new life, nobody realizing that he’s the guy who went missing and is plastered all over the national press. Because if anyone found him out too early, the movie’d be over, and we wouldn’t have the chance to see Danny find a new lust for life in this idyllic new town.

It doesn’t even matter that you can guess every plot turn before it happens. “Danny” is a story we’ve seen before, and writer/director Jeff Balsmeyer does little to deviate from the set course. But we don’t mind, because like Danny, we’re enjoying the discovery of this quaint town and its quaint residents. The charm of it all wins us over, and while we watch the tired old twists and turns, we smile anyway. We want to spend as much time as we can with Danny and Glenda, and sometimes, that warm feeling is all a movie needs to make it worth while.

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