Friday, December 13, 2013

Danny (1977)

Independently produced family films from the ’70s can make for some of the decade’s toughest viewing, because well-meaning amateurs attempting to create wholesome entertainment often overlooked the importance of conflict in dramatic construction. As a case in point, the equine drama Danny is borderline unwatchable simply because every character in the movie is so unrelentingly nice. The only adversarial forces in the movie are circumstance and the occasional petulance of the leading character, a 12-year-old girl. People in Danny tend to say things like this: “See, Janie? I told you all it takes is a lot of hard work, and maybe a little love.” In real life, meeting people as kind-hearted as the characters in Danny can be transformative. In reel life, encountering one-dimensional saints is boring. Directed by first-timer Gene Feldman, who later made a string of puff-piece celebrity documentaries for television, Danny tells the story of Janie (Rebecca Page), a suburban girl who works on a farm as a helper to Pat (Janet Zarish), a racehorse trainer. Janie has (mild) issues stemming from the death of her father some years back and from the fact that her mother is now seriously involved with a new man. Eager for a friend, Janie fixates on Danny, a white horse acquired by the farm where Pat works. In typically clichéd fashion, Danny’s got an injury, too—he goes lame—so he and Janie nurture each other back to health. (There’s also a beyond-trite subplot about Janie’s cutesy sorta-romance with a young boy who admires her.) Danny is a clumsy endeavor on every level, from the forgettable story to the inert performances by actors who, rightfully, never achieved notoriety elsewhere. The photography is basically competent, and very young equine enthusiasts will enjoy the many scenes set in obstacle courses, paddocks, and workout rings. Thanks to its good intentions, Danny is impossible to hate, but the movie is so bland and unoriginal that the strongest reaction it engenders is indifference.

Danny: LAME

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