Eve Von Bibra
It would be so easy to describe Kenny as a crap movie given that the titular anti-hero is an installer and maintainer of portaloos.
However, to do so would be pretty lame, not to mention untrue. For although Kenny’s vocation certainly acts a springboard for many a memorable one-liner (“there’s another classic example of someone having a two-inch arsehole and us having installed only one-inch piping”), Kenny the film never disappears up its own, well, arse with overly crude toilet humour, and instead manages to be genuinely warm-hearted, amusing and intelligent.
More The Office than Borat, Kenny is a mockumentary that follows the (mis)fortunes of a Melbourne “plumber” (as he likes to refer to himself) or “glorified turd-burglar” (as his curmudgeonly dad prefers to scorn).
It is true to say that the first half-hour does play for laughs. It succeeds but, like The Office, does so thanks to dialogue rather than cheap visual thrills. So, we witness Kenny’s concern over the spicy food and curries on offer at the summer music festivals; hear him musing on the etymology of the word shit; and listen to him defending his line of work (“Funny part is parents look at me and say: ‘That’s not much of a job, is it?’ And I say: ‘Well you had kids. You spent the first two years handling their shit, and you weren’t getting paid for that.’”)
However, as more details of Kenny’s life emerge, it quickly becomes apparent that the film really is about him rather than what he does for a living, and the viewer is thus transported into a study of family relationships, snobbery and standing up for oneself – albeit with a consistent supply of laughs. Kenny, it turns out, is one of life’s good guys, a stoical gentle giant who lives in his overalls, works hard but is dumped on (sorry) by most of those around him.
Kenny is the man who loves his son but is continually abused by his ex-wife and her friends. Kenny is the one who jumps on a plane to tend to his sick dad – the same dad who won’t even let Kenny wear his overalls in his house. Kenny is the one who is forced to sack a pugilistic colleague but then lends him money to tide him over. Kenny is the one who literally gets his hands dirty to retrieve a festival goer’s wedding ring and barely gets a “thank you” in return.
In fact, it might be easy to want to shake Kenny and tell him to “get a grip” if it weren’t for Shane Jacobson’s sensitive portrayal of him as someone instantly likeable, a man you want to root for, a man you’d want installing your toilet.
If there’s a touch of fantasy about Kenny being sent to a giant sanitation convention in Nashville, not to mention what happens while he’s there, then Shane and his co-scriptwriter/director brother Clayton build up more than enough goodwill throughout the rest of the movie for you to forgive them. They also don’t overdo the feelgood factor so that by the end, Kenny has begun the process of not being a complete doormat while continuing to live a life of limited ambitions.
Along the way, somehow, there is insightful social commentary. People look down on Kenny, whether it’s his working-class dad, bourgeois-wannabe brother or upper-class sloanies at the Melbourne Cup, the point being that snobbery can rear its ugly features at all levels of the social hierarchy. Of course, Kenny has more dignity than any of them. That the film can illustrate this so amusingly and delicately is testimony to its qualities.
Don’t confuse Kenny with a gross-out movie. Not Dumb & Dumber but Very Smart. Not American Pie but Australian Sweet. Not Superbad but Gloriously Good. There may be “no pecking order in poo” but this film is definitely top of the pile.