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Danny Deckchair Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/27/2004

It’s too bad when an interesting idea for a chick flick becomes clichéd and uninteresting.  That’s the problem with Danny Deckchair, an appealing Australian romantic comedy that falls flat once the setup is established.

Danny Morgan (Rhys Ifans) is a cement truck driver from Sydney, Australia, who hates his job.  He just fell in cement twice, and he is so tired that he looking forward to his holiday camping trip so that he can relax and not have to work with his coworker Pete (John Batchelor) still.  His plans are ruined when his live-in, real estate agent girlfriend, Trudy Dunphy (Justine Clarke), cancels the trip because she is too busy.  In reality, she wants to work with a sports reporter for AUS 11 news, Sandy Upman (Rhys Muldoon), because she sees the potential in him and is probably having an affair with him.  Besides, she considers Danny one of the “little people” who doesn’t inspire anyone to dream big.  Danny goes stir crazy because of the cancelled holiday, making him nuts.  One day, Danny gets the idea to buy several helium balloons from Phil Stubbs (Duncan Young), an old football mate from high school, who currently runs a car dealership called Car City.  His idea is to attach the balloons to his deckchair and float away, armed with a pellet gun and a six-pack of beer.  He implements this plan during Trudy’s alternate holiday for them, a backyard picnic barbeque, and he invites his friends to help with his plan.  No one really thinks that it will work, but when it actually does, he accidentally drops the gun and soars into the air, traveling miles away above in the air.  The balloon lands in the tree of a traffic cop named Glenda Lake (Miranda Otto) in the small town of Clarence, Northern Rivers, during a thunderstorm and the town’s fireworks during their annual Macadamia Festival & Ball.  He lands in her tree and she tries to explain to Sergeant Dave Mackie (Frank Magree), a guy she used to date, why Danny is there and not an alien.  She explains that Danny is her old former professor and friend named Mr. Daniels, which he accepts.  He comes to enjoy life in Clarence, and eventually befriends most everyone in the town.  Some of the people in the town are a little quirky, like Darren Kehole (Angus King), a guy who poses nude for an art class.  Danny is soon given the position of campaign manager for politician Big Jim Craig (Anthony Phelan) in his race against Meredith Butcher (Maggie Dence) for parliamentary mayor.  Meanwhile, Trudy isn’t too concerned with Danny’s disappearance, and is actually enjoying her sudden fame, along with her relationship to Sandy.  For some reason, the media coverage about Danny hasn’t hit Clarence, and Danny’s burgeoning feelings for Glenda make them fall in love with each other, though the truth about his true identity threatens to break them apart.

The reason I was let down by this movie was that I thought it seemed like it was going to have promise.  Once Danny got the idea to tie the balloons to the deckchair, it became just another romantic comedy filled with peculiar townspeople.  That’s something that I have seen one too many times, and I’m tired of it.  The evolution of this story came from a real person named Larry Walters, a Californian who in 1982 tied 42 weather balloons to his deckchair just to see what would happen, and the rest is goofball history.  I would have liked to see that story instead of this one, but since it might mean than the movie wouldn’t be that long, they probably had to fill time with the romance story part.  Maybe they should have just done a series of stories and made them into an anthology-type movie.

Danny Deckchair is the first movie for storyboard artist Jeff Balsmeyer, and though it had promise, I hope that he does better on his next movie.  Ifans and Otto had some chemistry together, but not enough to fill an entire movie.  Next time we get to see someone doing something entertainingly idiotic for our enjoyment, make it a little longer so we don’t have to go through so much filler.


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