Danny Deckchair

All his life, Danny Morgan (Ifans) has been a dreamer, coming up with one crazy scheme after another. Not for profit, though. Just crazy little projects like a backyard slingshot which serves no practical purpose, to help him break the monotony of his life as a cement truck driver. His only joy in life seems to be his yearly vacation, when he and his longtime girlfriend Trudy (Justine Clarke) go on a camping holiday. But what Danny doesn’t know is that his beloved has just started seeing local television sports personality Sandy Upman on the side, so when she ups and cancels the holiday on him with a feeble work-related excuse, Danny has nothing to do but go stir crazy in their house, until Trudy suggests a backyard barbeque with friends. It is while picking up supplies for the party where Danny comes up with his latest ruse: to tie a bunch of helium filled balloons to a deck chair and see if it would lift Danny off the ground.

Which, of course, it does. (There is no movie if the plan doesn’t work.) With dozens of balloons tied to the chair, Danny goes soaring up into the air above Syndey. At first, Danny is mistaken for a UFO, but very quickly (like in a matter of hours) becomes a folk hero and inspiration to the locals. The wind currents, and then a prodigious thunderstorm, blow Danny far away from home and out of the tracking abilities of local authorities. Not lightning nor a pesky bird can bring Danny down, until his flight path bring him up against the firework celebrations of the sleepy town of Clarence. When one rocket explodes in front of Danny’s deckchair, several of the balloons catch fire, sending the shoddy flying contraption Earthbound in a hurry, landing in the backyard of Glenda (Miranda Otto), Clarence’s only meter maid.

The fiery arrival of this mysterious man attracts the interest of a good portion of the town, much to the consternation of the quiet and reserved Glenda, who comes up with a strange cover story about college professors to explain Danny’s appearance. Within days, the freshly scrubbed and shaved Danny is accepted as one of Clarence’s own, even gaining employment as the political campaign strategist to a local business man running for office, based solely on an off-hand remark made by Danny about a pancake breakfast (a strange obsession of his) for which the entire town has turned out for. (And in case you were wondering, news of Danny has gone national in Oz, but not one person in Clarence seems to have the made the connection.) Meanwhile, back in Sydney, Trudy might genuinely be missing Danny, but she is enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame in the news, although that has as much to do with Sandy seeing his chance to get out of sports reporting and into national network exposure.

Truth be told, most of “Danny Deckchair” is fairly predictable. Like fellow Oz comedies “Crocodile Dundee” and “The Adventures of Priscilla,” “Danny” is a fish-out-of-water tale where the lead character(s) are taken out of their home environment to a strange (to them) new land, where they win over the locals (and especially one local in particular), only to find circumstances pulling them apart before the finale makes it all good again. With so much convention, how does this film remain fresh and enjoyabler Perhaps it is the lack of pretension and sentimentality that many Australian filmmakers share, although “Danny” writer/director is Aussie by marriage only. Like its lackadaisical lead, the film takes pleasure in the simple diversions in life, which may be alarming to adrenaline junkies, but many film fans should find comfort in the quiet joy of this strange and uncomplicated man.

Ifans and Otto previously worked together on the 2002 Charlie Kaufman feature “Human Nature,” and while that filmic flop left much to be desired, it is easy to see the familiarity of the actors with each other spill over into their performances. Danny and Glenda are the heart and soul of the film, and without the magical chemistry of Ifans and Otto together the story would fall flat.

A cinematic tour de force it is not, but “Danny Deckchair” is an enjoyable time to be had by all.

Rating: B