Danny Deckchair's title, premise, and Australian origin all serve as a giant warning sign reading "Danger! Wackiness Ahead!" An example of why the phrase "Australian comedy" strikes fear in the hearts of so many discriminating moviegoers, the film stars Rhys Ifans as a shabby dreamer whose ambitious girlfriend (Justine Clarke) refers to him as one of the "little people." (And not the kind that kicked it with Darby O'Gill, either.) Ifans has a lot of harebrained schemes, many of which involve pancake breakfasts, but none amount to anything until he decides to attach a bunch of helium balloons to his lawn-chair, transforming it into a makeshift aircraft. Soon, Ifans is soaring through the sky, coming down only when his balloons catch fire and he crash-lands in one of those idyllic small towns whose primary occupation seems to be teaching fun-loving outsiders to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.
Ifans' nearly suicidal stunt makes him a national folk hero and allows him to start fresh in a new town, where he falls in love with a pretty traffic cop and reinvents himself as a homespun political advisor. Danny Deckchair depicts him as a lovable free spirit, but it's hard to like a character who can't find time for a simple phone call to assure his friends that he's not, say, lying in a field somewhere with shattered legs. Then again, Ifans' cartoonishly drawn blue-collar chums seem too dense even to consider that possibility. Sent into near-orgasmic rapture by the frenzy of press attention she receives, Clarke even greets a news report warning of Ifans' possible death as a cue to begin sleeping with a scheming reporter.
Danny Deckchair layers one ridiculous plot device on top of another, relying heavily on strained misunderstandings, an oppressively fun-loving soundtrack, and scenery-chewing to prop up its weak characters and a sketchy plot. Best known for Notting Hill, Ifans remains a charming actor, but even his fine work can't get this lead zeppelin off the ground.