Danny Deckchair

Thanks to amiable lead performances from Miranda Otto and Rhys Ifans, this not very original Aussie comedy about a man making a fresh start in life is a pleasant enough time-waster. First feature from Yank-born, Aussie-based writer-director Jeff Balsmeyer is easy to take. Fox will have to work hard to attract audiences, but a modest-to-good opening is to be expected. Abroad, pic will perform better in some territories, such as the U.K., than others.

With:
Danny Morgan - Rhys Ifans Glenda Lake - Mirando Otto Trudy Dunphy - Justine Clarke Sandy Upman - Rhys Muldoon Sgt. Dave Mackie - Frank Magree Jim Craig - Andrew Phelan Pete - Andrew Batchelor Kate - Jules Sobotta Ray - Alan Flower Bob - Rod Zuanic Meredith Butcher - Maggie Dence Louella - Michelle Boyle Regina - Jane Beddows Maggie Pike - Jeanette Cronin Sandra Craig - Alex Mann

Thanks to amiable lead performances from Miranda Otto and Rhys Ifans, this not very original Aussie comedy about a man making a fresh start in life is a pleasant enough time-waster. First feature from Yank-born, Aussie-based writer-director Jeff Balsmeyer is easy to take, despite the indulgence given to some too-broadly drawn supporting characters. Fox, which picked up this local item for Oz release, will have to work hard to attract audiences, but a modest-to-good opening is to be expected. Abroad, pic will perform better in some territories, such as the U.K., than others.Pic offers a feel-good story about a put-upon laborer who, through an act of fate, is given a new chance in life in a small-town paradise far from the dreary city suburbs and his annoying, faithless girlfriend. It’s a similar theme to that of a hugely popular TV series, “Seachange,” which captivated Aussie audiences a few years back, and one of the problems facing “Danny Deckchair” is that Balsmeyer doesn’t bring much new to the formula.

Danny Morgan (Ifans) is a working class stiff who lives with his self-centered realtor girlfriend, Trudy (Justine Clarke) in Sydney’s ‘burbs. After discovering she dated one of her clients, Sandy Upman (Rhys Muldoon), an ambitious TV sports reporter, to avoid a camping vacation with him, Danny nevertheless goes through with plans for a backyard barbecue, attended by the couple’s friends and neighbors.

Danny has acquired a large number of balloons, and he and his buddies fill them with helium and tie them to a deckchair. Via this makeshift device, Danny is lifted off the ground and soars over Sydney’s landmarks to the amazement of Trudy and his friends. He disappears into a violent thunderstorm and eventually crash lands, hundreds of miles to the north, in the backyard of lonely, frustrated Glenda (Otto), a parking policewoman.

With the only single man in sight the unappealing local cop, Dave (Frank Magree), she claims Danny is a professor from her University days. Meanwhile, Upman, seeing the chance to break out of the sports telecast ghetto, stirs up public interest in Sydney over Danny’s mysterious disappearance.

By far the best scenes in the film are those involving Ifans and Otto, who make a charming romantic couple. Attractive, too, are the scenes of Danny floating high in the sky while sitting on a deckchair supported by yellow balloons.

But Balsmeyer is less effective when dealing with the supporting characters. Clarke’s Trudy, especially, is an irritating character so lacking in charm that’s it’s difficult to see what attracted her to Danny in the first place.

The screenplay is also full of holes, like, for example, the fact television news stories emanating from Sydney about Danny’s flight and disappearance fail to include a photograph of the missing man.

Like many contemporary Australian films, this is a comedy with a script that needed more work, more laughs and, crucially, a fresher and more original approach to the material. It’s thanks to the sterling work of the two leads, that “Danny Deckchair” works as well as it does.

Technical credits are all top-drawer.

Danny Deckchair

Australia

Production: A 20th Century Fox release (in Australia) of a Cobalt Media Group-Macquarie Film Corp. presentation of a City Prods. production, in association with Crusader Entertainment, with the support of the NSW Film and TV Office, Australian Film Commission. (U.S. sales, Crusader Entertainment, Los Angeles. Other international sales, Cobalt Media Group, London.) Produced by Andrew Mason. Executive Producers, Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin, William J. Immerman, Carol Hughes. Co-producer, Lizzie Bryant. Directed, written by Jeff Balsmeyer.

Crew: Camera (Atlab color), Martin McGrath; editor, Suresh Ayyar; music, David Donaldson, Janet Roddick, Steve Roche; production designer, Kim Buddee; art director, Laurie Faen; costume designer, Emily Seresin; sound (Dolby digital-DTS), Ben Osmo; stunts, Rocky McDonald; special effects supervisor, Tad Pride; assistant director, Chris Webb; casting, Ann Robinson. Reviewed at Frank Hurley screening room, Fox Studios, Sydney, June 24, 2003. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Danny Morgan - Rhys Ifans Glenda Lake - Mirando Otto Trudy Dunphy - Justine Clarke Sandy Upman - Rhys Muldoon Sgt. Dave Mackie - Frank Magree Jim Craig - Andrew Phelan Pete - Andrew Batchelor Kate - Jules Sobotta Ray - Alan Flower Bob - Rod Zuanic Meredith Butcher - Maggie Dence Louella - Michelle Boyle Regina - Jane Beddows Maggie Pike - Jeanette Cronin Sandra Craig - Alex Mann

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