|Thursday, Nov 20, 2014, 12:33:52 PM|
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Crash landing: Danny Deckchair launches with promise--then plummets
By Anthony Del Valle
The first 45 minutes or so of the Australian Danny Deckchair is a funny, lyrical fantasy about a blue-collar man who literally flies away from his troubles into his own Oz. And then, dammit, director and screenwriter Jeff Balsmeyer turns didactic on us. His playing it safe causes this beautiful opportunity of a film to crash just when it seemed destined for the stratosphere.
The title character is a big-city, good-hearted cement worker (Rhys Ians) who's crushed to learn that his ambitious, live-in girlfriend thinks he's strictly small-time. His troubles mount until one day in the middle of a backyard barbecue he inadvertently heads skyward aboard a lawn chair powered by a score of helium balloons. He drifts long past city skyscrapers until he crashes into the tree of a faraway small-town front yard belonging to beautiful but unhappy small-town parking police officer Glenda Lake (Miranda Otto). Danny finds purity of soul here, as well as a soulmate. In his home city, where the residents fear he is long dead, he becomes a hero. People now dare to do things they've only dreamed about, just as Danny did by flying away on a lawn chair.
This is a gorgeous idea for an over-the-rainbow tale of longing, and Balsmeyer exhibits, at first, the perfect light touch. But then Danny starts making speeches about what life is really all about, Glenda becomes a self-righteous good girl, all the themes are spelled out, and the film goes to hell. It's as if Balsmeyer was convinced no one would understand his fairy tale's moral unless he preached it at us.
Ians gives the film genuine uplift, with his good ol' boy goofiness. He deserves to become a major star. (It's amazing how physically and spiritually different he is here from his role in Vanity Fair.) It's just too bad Balsmeyer has such little trust in moviegoers' intelligence.