- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

Plenty of people dream of floating away from all their troubles.Danny Morgan actually did something about it.So goes “Danny

Deckchair,” a wisp of a comedy built around a Sydney man who escapes his humdrum life by tying helium balloons to his chair and soaring up, up and away.

The film banks on the preciousness of its hirsute hero (“Notting Hill’s” Rhys Ifans) and the dreamlike sheen of its comeback story.

Where, oh where are the memorable supporting characters a film like this, by law, should have? And does anybody remember laughter? The giggles dry up once Danny’s chair returns to earth.

Our heavy-lidded hero looks like a somnambulant caveman when the story opens, falling into a cement pool at work and collapsing on his couch at home while his shrew of a mate (Justine Clarke) lies to his face.

Who wouldn’t fantasize about a permanent vacation?

One day, Danny straps a few helium balloons to his deck chair as a lark but gets carried away after a few too many beers.

Soon, the chair starts rising skyward, taking a stunned Danny along with it.

The chair finally lands, depositing him in a quaint Australian town far away from home.

He’s embraced immediately by the locals, particularly a repressed parking cop named Glenda (Miranda Otto of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy).

She lets Danny stay with her, telling friends and a jealous fellow cop that he’s an old professor pal.

He, in turn, shaves off his scraggly beard and gently teases her out of her shell.

Turns out Danny cleans up quite nicely, which robs the film of its shaggy-dog charm. Did we really need a hirsute slacker to become a near-ideal leading man in a comedy cut from “Full Monty” cloth?

The couple’s romance moves forward cautiously, though it appears very little stands in its way.

The chemistry experiment between the two is the most potent elixir of “Danny Deckchair,” particularly when the two are sharing their first slow dance. It’s a magical moment to which the rest of the film doesn’t measure up.

“Danny Deckchair” splices in a political subplot with even less substance than the main story just so Danny can give a Capra-esque speech to cement Glenda’s affections.

Why bother? He had her at “look out, below.”

Suffice to say that the whole conceit that Danny’s old friends can’t find him even though his disappearance becomes a national story makes little sense, but the film doesn’t bother itself with such realities. That we notice them is a sign we’re never quite under its spell.

There’s always room for a “Danny Deckchair” at the video store, a harmless trifle next to the big-budget features that leaves one with a gentle half-smile for about five minutes.

It’s a tougher sell at the cineplex, where the price tag — and expectations — are considerably higher.

Beyond its amusing premise, there’s precious little to anchor “Danny Deckchair” to terra firma.

**

WHAT: “Danny Deckchair”

RATING: PG:13 (Mild sexuality)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Jeff Balsmeyer. Director of photography: Martin McGarth.

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

WEB SITE: www.dannydeckchairmovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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