DVD Review Of Danny Deckchair

Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 11/26/06


  The seep of the worst aspects of American culture is always depressing to watch. Witness the 2004 Australian film Danny Deckchair, which is an off the rack romantic comedy without a whit of inspiration, and as predictable as they come. Granted, Hollywood romantic comedies can be bad to occasionally mediocre, and this film gently crests out of bad and into tepid mediocrity, but why was it ever made? To prove that Aussies could be as banal as the worst our country produces? Perhaps the secret is that the director and screenwriter was an American named Jeff Balsmeyer, and this was his first film after a career as a storyboardist. Lesson: just because a person can draw scenes others give to them does not mean they can actually write those scenes well. In short, since the film is so generic it’s probably not the sort of outing that will have producers clamoring to give him a second shot. The premise for the film comes from the spate of real life nuts who tied balloons to chairs and other devices, and took off into the skies. The first recorded nut was a man called ‘Lawnchair Larry’ Walters, who took off in June of 1982, and years later suicided.

  Now, perhaps the actual flight, and a good story tacked on to it would be worth filming, but this is a B-level Julia Roberts film with a good starting gag, but lacking Roberts, who despite her deficiencies as an actress, has an undeniable cinematic ‘presence’. None of the actors in this little film has anything near that sort of presence. Here’s a synopsis of the film: Danny Morgan (Rhys Ifans- who was a supporting actor in the Julia Roberts hit Notting Hill) is an ugly, bearded cement worker in Sydney, Australia, who pulls wacky stunts from time to time. His live-in girlfriend Trudy (Justine Clarke) is cheating on him with a local tv reporter Sandy Upman (Rhys Muldoon), he finds out about it when she lies about not wanting to go camping with him. He pulls his stunt, but does so only accidentally, and gets lost in a thunderstorm as the Sydney officials lose track of him. He ends up in a small country town called Clarence, that seems like a Frank Capra fantasy, where he meets a meter maid named Glenda (Miranda Otto). In fact, in one scene, she and Danny dance, and she falls into a pool, and the rest of the dancers, for reasons unknown, join her- this is a blatant ripoff of a similar scene from Capra’s classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Of course, Glenda is sweet and lovely- as opposed to sex bomb Trudy, they claim he is a Professor Daniels, and they fall in love. Her jealous ex tries to sabotage Danny, who is still not known as being the now famous flyer in this backwater burg, but it backfires. Danny is discovered, after his girlfriend has become famous for grieving. They are reunited on television, he dumps her, goes after the true love, and they live happily ever after. Aside from a silly political subplot, and a few nicely staged scenes, I’ve saved you any reason for watching this film, and losing two hours of your life.

  The pluses? Well, there are the two leading ladies, who are very lovely to gaze at- especially Ms. Clarke’s stunning alabaster face framed by black tresses, but why any woman would be attracted to the lead actor- a taller, gawkier, and even more inarticulate and uglier version of Owen Wilson, is beyond me. Of course, the whole film plot is propelled by the ‘Dumbest Possible Action’ principle, which has blue collar Danny being readily accepted as a professor, and growing beloved by hundreds of town folk in a few days- to the point of knowing them all by name. Since this film is set in the Internet Age it’s not plausible that no one in town would not see Danny’s face on tv or online and peg him as the ‘professor who fell from the sky.’ I could name a good dozen more, but why bother? If you do not have an idea of the sort of film I’m describing you’ve just thawed out of a Pleistocene glacier. Either that or you enjoy sitcom level writing, and yearn to have canned laughter cue you in when to laugh. The film is so generic and contrived, on all levels, that when Danny gives a political speech to save the career of a local politician, Big Jim Craig (Anthony Phelan), he’s befriended, his idea of depth consists of pabulum such as, ‘You don't have to be a bigwig to be a somebody.’ Not exactly a Jimmy Stewart level oration.

  The DVD does not offer much in the way of extras, either. There is a trailer, and a twenty or so minute long making of featurette, as well as Ifans and Balsmeyer doing film commentary. In a film with this lack of depth, a film commentary could be helpful if it tells us something about technical matters of filming, or about the creative process. Bad films can be good DVDs if the features add to the product. Instead, the duo just ramble on aimlessly about ‘cluster ballooning’ now becoming an extreme sport, with Balsmeyer also actually trying to compare this film to The Wizard Of Oz. And, although Balsmeyer mentions some deleted scenes, we get to see none of them- a big no no on this sort of film. Other than the two leading ladies’ looks, and the fact that the film’s predictability is slightly muted by its candied innocuousness, the only thing it really has in its favor is that, at an hour and forty minutes, it’s not too long, although twenty minutes could have been dropped here and there to counter the somnolence it brings. Not the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, nor the cinematography, nor scoring, really rate any mention. But, wait, I guess I did mention it, which is sort of like Danny Deckchair itself does, in telegraphing the obvious, and then stating it back, in case you don’t get it.

  Thankfully, critics don’t do that, now do they?


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