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Film Review: Danny Johnson Saves The World (2015)

Danny Johnson poster

SYNOPSIS:
“Young Danny Johnson (Elliott Mihm) must use his smarts and adventurous spirit to stop devious pint-sized aliens and their unstoppable robot from brainwashing the children of Earth as a precursor to worldwide domination in writer-director Christopher R. Mihm’s retro-styled sci-fi take on classic family films!” (courtesy IMDB)

REVIEW:
A Merry Cryptmas to all and to all a good fright! Because you’ve all been very naughty this year, I’ve decided to present for your yuletide pleasure a family film from the best director of the worst movies ever. It premiered on American cinema screens in May 2015 and was fast-tracked to me the usual way, by entrusting it to Australia Post and wishing really, really hard. Two months later and a few animal sacrifices made to local postboxes, hey presto! It arrived at last! It’s an instant classic that answers the oft-asked question, “In a battle between small children and evil puppets, who would win?” Sadly the answer is right there in the title of the film, so the spoilerphobes among you may want to avert your eyes while it appears directly below this paragraph. Turn away…now! Those of you still reading, please don’t say it out loud.

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And turn back. It’s the latest creature-feature from Milwaukean monster-movie-maker Mister Mihm, who has been kind enough to allow me to abuse many of his previous efforts, including The Monster Of Phantom Lake (2006), Cave Women On Mars (2008), House Of Ghosts (2012) and The Giant Spider (2013). Settle-in and snuggle-up to hear the story of Danny, a kid who has to use all his smarts (and 71.3% of his enthusiasm) to defeat a deluge of devious diminutive aliens named Steve and their giant killer garbage can, in Christopher R. Mihm‘s fifties-style family film Danny Johnson Saves The World (2015)! Oops! Oh well, the cat’s out of the bag now. It reminds me of the old Hollywood adage: Never work with children or Muppets, or Giant Killer Robots for that matter. Not only do they keep looking at the camera, they’re a bugger to cater for.

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Danny Johnson Saves The World is the latest in a long line of family films that take place in the mind of a small child: There are famous ones like The Wizard Of Oz (1939), The 5,000 Fingers Of Doctor T. (1953) and The Princess Bride (1987). Not so famous is Robot Monster (1953), Invaders From Mars (1953) and the entire series of St Elsewhere. In this particular case, Grandpa is telling the story of young Danny (Elliott Mihm) and his friends who, while playing in the forest, are kidnapped by an alien named Steve and his pet robot, and are taken aboard a flying saucer hovering high above the earth. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The performances are good enough to bring the story to life, considering all the characters that aren’t puppets or robots are played by children – except for Grandpa, who’s played by James Norgard, a Mihmiverse regular, or extra-large as he is now.

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Child actors face so much pressure nowadays, not only learning their craft but also work schedules and fame, that many (from Danny Bonaduce to River Phoenix) burn out from addictions, car wrecks or bizarre gardening accidents. Thanks to Mihm’s parenting, none of the children in this film will ever have any of those problems. That being said, the performances are watchable and charming, sometimes even good. Best of the bunch include Gabrielle Bilotta as Danny’s love interest, Lola Warneke as the granddaughter, and Alice Mihm as Danny’s little sister. Many of the camera set-ups are thoughtful, even clever, but the illusion is lost whenever they switch to hand-held shaky-cam. If I had my way it would have been shot with a static camera in scratchy 16mm, but no-one ever listens to me. Admittedly, with good reason.

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The special effects by Christopher R. Mihm are certainly effective if not exactly special, but that’s understandable considering the minuscule budget. The puppets sort-of work, but I can’t stop thinking that they’re all, well, puppets. Nonetheless the practical effects definitely make the film a lot more fun to watch, and the stop-motion animation by Sydney artist Norman Yeend is amazing but all too brief. Young Danny Johnson eventually dismantles the mind-control devices of the evil aliens thus saving the world from alien mind-control, leaving this path of endeavour open to other evil aliens like Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Yes, it’s finally happened. My broadcaster TVS Television Sydney (and subsequently my award-winning program The Schlocky Horror Picture Show) is being closed down permanently by an act of parliament, which I would feel partly responsible for, if I wasn’t quite as drunk as I am right now.

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They say they need my valuable frequency to test new technologies, like how many shopping channels can fit on one remote control, or how to burn through your mobile data quota in under two minutes. But here’s the truth: Tony Abbott really hates horror movies! He can’t relate to heartless bloodsuckers or brain-eating zombies, or cursed tomb-plundering adventurers. He has no time for the tortured souls of mummies or mad scientists hellbent on destroying the world, and lesbian vampires just make his head explode! Nil Desperandum (which means ‘Don’t Get Your Knickers In A Twist’ in Latin). I’ve been writing for Horror News since its inception, and shall continue to impart my invaluable knowledge and experience via this website for as long as physically (and mentally) possible, so please join me next week for another nonsensical bit of fluff that will carve indelible scars into your psyche, for Horror News! Toodles!

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Danny Johnson Saves The World (2015)

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