Danny Deckchair

on August 11, 2004 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
Picked as the closing night film at the Toronto International Film Festival, "Danny Deckchair" was undoubtedly also one of the most contrived and formulaic of the hundreds of films at the event. The Danny of the title is one Danny Morgan (Rhys Ifans), an eccentric Sydney construction worker/would-be inventor with a highly ambitious and dismissive girlfriend (Justine Clarke). When his long-anticipated camping holiday is kiboshed by his significant other, a depressed Danny rigs up a lawn chair and some helium balloons and before you know it he's blasted off into the ether, eventually landing in the Northern Australian town of Clarence. There, where no one knows him, he gets a chance to start over, hopefully with the comely Glenda (Miranda Otto), a parking cop who's been burned once too often in the game of love.

It's indicative of how false "Danny Deckchair" is and how slavishly it wants to stick to the premise that no one in Clarence would recognize Danny--that one is expected to accept that the TV channels covering Danny's disappearance would not show a photo of him, even though his story is of nationwide interest.

With its gallery of folksy townsfolk and laid-back humor, none of which is funny, "Danny Deckchair" clearly hopes to capture the charm and understated wit of such wonderful, inventive films as "Gregory's Girl" and "Melvin and Howard." In that aim, it never even comes close. The strain shows in virtually very scene and performance, save that of Otto, who somehow manages to suggest layers of personality beneath her character's cliches.

Unlike Danny's contraption, "Danny Deckchair" never gets off the ground. Starring Rhys Ifans, Miranda Otto and Justine Clarke. Directed and written by Jeff Balsmeyer. Produced by Andrew Mason. A Lions Gate release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sex-related situations. Running time: 99 min

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