Two actors caught in a sea of gooey
Rated PG-13 for sex-related situations;
Opening today at the Tower Theatre.
Danny Deckchair has three things going for it: Its stars, Rhys Ifans and Miranda Otto, and the serenely absurd image of a patio chair held aloft by balloons floating over the Australian countryside.
Otherwise, though, this flimsy comedy is shot down by a shaky script and a stifling overload of small-town whimsy.
Ifans plays Danny Morgan, a layabout cement-truck driver whose big dreams never match his efforts at execution - a fact that has long irritated his girlfriend Trudy (Justine Clarke), a status-seeking real estate agent. One day, while throwing a barbie for his pals, Danny ties a bunch of helium-filled balloons to his lawn chair, just for giggles, and unexpectedly goes airborne. Soon he disappears from view, floating across Sydney and into the country.
Danny lands in the small town of Clarence, specifically in the back yard of Otto's character, Glenda Lake, the town's parking cop and resident spinster. Danny becomes a town oddity, and soon a dispenser of wisdom admired by nearly everyone in Clarence. But while Danny is helping Glenda emerge from her shell, his disappearance back home has turned into a media circus - and thrown Trudy together with a hunky TV anchor (Rhys Muldoon).
Rookie writer-director Jeff Balsmeyer is a longtime storyboard artist, so the movie's look is dreamy, particularly when Danny is floating through the clouds on his balloon chair. But his script is full of holes, and the plot only works if you believe everybody in Clarence - especially the level-headed Glenda - is an idiot (or never looks at a TV or the police station's fax machine). Balsmeyer also delivers the uncomfortably condescending message that these eccentric salt-of-the-earth folks in small-town Australia need this Sydney slacker to tell them how good-hearted they are.
Ifans (Notting Hill), for his part, is a goofball charmer up until the script requires him to deliver his nauseating Capra-esque speech. Otto (Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Ifans' co-star in Human Nature) is a sunny screen presence, whose shy smile (when she deploys it) could light up all of Australia. Together, though, they can't get Danny Deckchair free of its smugly sweet gooeyness.