Danny Deckchair

If I had to describe this movie in one word, it would be simple.  There’s nothing complicated here, nothing that will change your perceptions, challenge your ideas, or leave you with any real sense of wonderment.  The plot is straightforward and painfully predictable, the characters are cobbled together from the bargain bin of Hollywood cardboard cutouts, and the message isn’t anything beyond what most people have heard since third grade.  And yet, the movie is ultimately more than the sum of its parts, and proves to be, if nothing else, good old-fashioned entertainment: the kind of check-your-brain-at-the-door moviegoing experience that is tailor-made for a Friday night rental, provided it is accompanied by a good date and a bucket of buttery popcorn.

(click for trailer)

(click for trailer)

The entire premise of the movie can be surmised from the poster:  average  dude floats away on a lawn chair and starts his life over.  Despite the fact that this idea has actually been tried by real people, it’s still kind of an interesting premise and makes one wonder why more people don’t pull a Peter Gibbons (or, in this case, a Danny Morgan) and just try something new for a change.  Danny, played by quintessential “that one guy” Rhys Ifans (better known as the wiry guy from The Replacements), is a construction worker in Sydney, Australia, with an unappreciative girlfriend and a head full of odd ideas that never quite come to fruition.  One day he decides that he can escape his problems by floating away on a chair tied to several helium balloons, and he ends up in a town where no one knows him and he essentially gets a second chance at life.

There’s nothing here we haven’t seen before in all kinds of fish-out-of-water movies, and the entire story after Danny lands in the small town of Clarence is a paint-by-numbers exercise in Hollywood deja vu.  Danny meets a girl, fails to explain who he really is, and begins living a double life as someone he is not.  The entire town is fooled, he becomes a local hero, but ultimately the truth comes out and Danny must deal with the mess he has created.  Not exactly an Alfonso Cuarón work, folks.

Danny and his friend-girl Glenda share a tender moment.

Danny and his friend-girl Glenda share a tender moment.

And yet, the movie ends up being rather enjoyable due in large part to the incredible charm of Ifans.  Sort of a skinny, blonde, Australian version of Vince Vaughan, he is the type of everyday guy most of us can relate to.  His bumbling, deer-in-the-headlights character who manages to succeed at unwittingly convincing an entire town that he really is a good, honest, salt-of-the-earth guy in spite of himself is eminently endearing and enjoyable.  Miranda Otto, the spitting image of Laura Linney, does a great job at playing the straight-laced parking cop Glenda who turns out to have a more adventurous and carefree side that is (betcha didn’t see this coming) brought out the more she gets to know Danny.

This movie sort of caught me by surprise, and I was struck at how little of the storyline actually revolves around Danny and his deckchair.  The chair is simply a brief means of transportation and ultimately has almost nothing to do with the movie as a whole.  Massive stretches of logic are required just to watch it, too:  if the entire town of Sydney is looking for Danny after he floats away, why does no one in the town of Clarence realize that the mystery man who appeared in town the same night the man from Sydney floated is, in fact, Danny?  Does no one in Clarence watch the news?  A subplot involving Danny kind of exposing a local politician for being somewhat of a fraud is entirely dropped with no resolution, and Danny’s girlfriend Trudy is about as cliché as they come.  But let’s not miss the forest for the trees here:  it’s a fun movie in spite of itself, and just by reading the title you should probably be expecting just about what you’re getting.


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