Australian Cinema (MED231)
Assignment 2: Critical Review and Bibliography

Kenny (2006)

By Catherine Pollard

“..yes, curry does make a difference…”
         A Jacobson Brothers Film, Thunderbox Films

PART ONE

Director:  Clayton Jacobson
Producer: Rohan Timlock
Writer: The Jacobson Brothers
Cast list:
Kenny Smyth  -           Shane Jacobson
Father  -           Ronald Jacobson
Son      -           Jesse Jacobson
Sammy-           Ian Dryden
Jackie  -           Eve Von Bibra
Sushi Cowboy            -           Morihiko Hasebe
Pat       -           Chris Davis
Screenplay: Clayton Jacobson
Editor: Clayton Jacobson, Sean Lander
Technical Support/ Camera B: Sean Lander
Composer: Richard Pleasance
Production Manager/ Director’s Assistant: Nicole Bardy
Sound Designer/ Music/ SFX Editor: Graig Carter
Sound Mixer: Peter Smith
Music Supervisor: Norman Parkhill
Original Music: Richard Pleasance
Release Date: World Premier Screening 13 June 2006
Australian Cinemas 17 August 2006 (preview 10 August 2006)
                        New Zealand Cinemas 16 October 2006
                       
Technical
Running time: 104 minutes
Classification: M
Genre: Comedy, Mocumentary
Screen Formats: Widescreen 1.85:1
Video Standard: PAL
Sound: English 5.1 Dolby Digital; English Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English
Special Features: Bonus Scenes; Audio Commentary; Theatrical Trailer
Dual Layered: Yes
Film Location: Western Suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney and Nashville Tennessee in USA

Awards

Star Rating: 4 ½

Bibliographical Information:
Kenny has its own official website at http://www.kennythemovie.com. It offers a bright, colorful, interactive website. With a distinctive navigation tool to map one’s self around the website. It is game-like, making the website even more enjoyable to engage. This official website presents a vast list of Kenny’s film reviews, cast and crew lists, photos, trailers, news and events about the film. There was a sizeable amount of information available about the film on the internet. Plenty of film reviews from biographies, to Awards, even scripts. The reviews were very positive, all commenting Kenny’s character as an iconic Australian individual. Not all of them were just posted on the internet; there were reviews in just about every state newspaper. The Kenny movie ‘trailer’ was also a popular hit on the video upload/ download website www.youtube.com .
This is what some reviewers’ had to say about Kenny:
“A simple, undeniable truth of mankind, one which crosses culture, political and religious belief is the following: everybody poos. A concept central to both proctology and screen based comedy, and one which has kept the makers of every second teen comedy out of the gutters themselves, poo is a stalwart of movie making, from the diarrhoetic outbursts of Dumb and Dumber, to the more dramatic s*** smearing of North Country, to the films of Uwe Boll, themselves pure cinematic semi-liquid nuggets of week-old vindaloo proportions.” (1)
Reviewer: Al Cossar
In Film Australia

            “Kenny is the genuine article. Beyond the poos jokes, there’s plenty of character and heart in this hilarious mockumentary set in the world of a portaloo plumber who is as sensitive as he is pragmatic…. Yes, a curry does make a bit of a difference Kenny admits when quoting the number of portaloos required, basing his recommendations on a ratio of four to one solid.” (2)
            BIGPOND MOVIES: BigPond’s Movie channel
            Review Date: 6 December 2006
           
            “Part philosopher, part comedian and all heart, Kenny is seemingly ignored and unappreciated. He is one of the cogs in humanity’s machinery, an unsung hero taking care of society’s dirty work.”
            Australian Film Commission: Australian Films and Awards – Features 2006
           
            “This is a big statement to make, but I’m going to make it nonetheless – Kenny is the best Australian comedy since The Castle. In fact, I’ll go ne better by saying it’s one of Australia’s best ever.”
            Titled ‘Absolute Ripper’        
The Sunday Times newspaper
Review section. Page 13 August 2006

More Kenny reviews are available at the following web addresses:

Information about the film’s online presence:
Seeking information about the comedy was quite easy as the film is still recent. I first viewed the film when it was released in late 2006, if I were to have researched via the internet about it during that time I’m sure there would have been even more information that there is now. In saying that, I was not cut short; there were still oodles of archived reviews and general information about Kenny. Still, I would have to say that the official Kenny website http://www.kennythemovie.com.au was the most useful of them all. I was impressed by some of the website who gives users the opportunity to further read on and research information by posting other links to more websites. Such links included complete actor profiles and the filmmakers.

PART TWO – Critical Review of the film and its Literature

Plot Synopsis and Personal Commentary:
The film Kenny is a comic mocumentary about a regular kind of guy, dong a regular kind of job. Employed by “Splashback Corporate Toilet Hire” this laughable yet loveable, iconic Aussie battler takes us through life as a port-a-loo plumber. We are introduced to Kenny’s son, father, ex-wide and co-workers all of which are critical of Kenny’s lifestyle yet we as an audience still feel a lovable connection with his character. His simplistic behaviors like his dealing with his own clients, his reaction to the little mishaps in life are all amusing. I believe that humor is something that we as an audience laugh about when we find other people in circumstances that we don’t necessarily want to see ourselves in. For example we cringe or giggle when we see people doing thing we try to avoid in life. These sorts of things could include falling over a chair, or eating an egg and cucumber sandwich and finding that the egg was off and therefore suffering gastro for a week. Hearing about other people do that we see as finny. Seeing witnessing such situations we laugh, because we instinctively curious, that’s what makes humor.
In Kenny, each character we are introduced to reveals a layer of his personal life; A relationship form the past and his separation with his ex , is married to the job, his dedication to completing a on time, every time to even his love for beer. Each greeting with a new or another person invites us as an audience to learn to understand the ingredients of this working class Aussie’s life.  

First of all we need to distinguish what a ‘mocumentary’ is. It is genre, topic we have not yet exclusively discussed in this Australian Cinema unit, however I believe we have touched on it on two major occasions; the first occasion being ‘Documentary’, and the second being ‘Comedy’.
Kenny can be classified as a documentary as it follows the life of an Australian plumber, demonstrating the highs and lows of the business while inviting audiences into his personal life to formulate a deeper scope.
Bill Nichols 1991 suggests:
 “…documentary film lies in its ability to make us see timely in need of attention, literally. We see view of the world, and what they put before us are social issues and cultural values, current problems and possible solution, actual situations and specific ways of representing them.”
Kenny would fall into Gillard’s category of ‘situation comedy’ because Kenny is the central character of the film, we as an audience are taken through his life with, much like a ‘coherent narrative’. Kenny also ‘relies on character awareness’ because the external lives affecting him such as this son and work colleges shapes the way he goes about his day’s business. Gary Gillard 2006, defines two types of comedy:
“Perhaps there two basic kinds of film comedy: comedian comedy and situation comedy. First is arguably the ‘purer’, and relies on gags and sketches; the seconds has a more coherent narrative, and relies on the development of character or an awareness of social incongruities or contradictions. Among the second group, writers have identified certain forms of narrative comedy, parody and satire. “
I believe Kenny is a combination of these two genres. It is a comedy, but it is shot in a documentary style making it more of a mocumenary than anything else. This mocumentary genre is stylistic choice of the filmmaker which gains an audiences appeal.

The film opens with Kenny dealing with a client over the phone. He describes his theory of how much waste will be accumulated at an event; 4 water to 1 solid. Kenny continues to recognise his theories, telling us about how the word ‘Shit’ came to educating us that waste is 85% water. He passes his knowledge on to other character’s in the film, for example his co-worker Pat. Pat asks Kenny about marriage, Kenny replies with comic relief saying that his failed and that a wedding is purely an “‘I do’ day, no pressure”. “Pat choices to learn from m y life’s mistakes rather than his own”
“I’m not necessary sure if I’m the right person to be asking all about this Pat”

Kenny and his ex-wide wife have an arrangement to share their son throughout the week. Kenny is designated a day to take his son out to the beach. Jackie angrily tells Kenny that he must be back within a couple of hours. Astonished, Kenny replies by saying it would be impossible to do so as he was intending to take the boy to his grandfather’s house a couple of hours away. Jackie refuses to come to an agreement, so Kenny is left with his day being rushed. Once they both arrive, Kenny’s father refuses to let Kenny sit on his lounge suite (not that it was anything special) because his is afraid the odour from his overalls will contaminate. He asks Kenny to remove his shoes and overalls and instead wear a bathroom robe with he has nominated for him. All to much comical effect. This whole scene acts as a parallel to the relationship between Kenny and his father; his father, after all these years, refuses to accept his own son’s job namely calling it “not being one”. He insists Kenny finds another careers, ignoring that fact that he is a successful man in his own field and earning over $1200 per week.

In the later of the film, Kenny is privileged enough to be flown overseas to Tennessee courtesy of his company for the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International. Or what Kenny likes to call it; ‘Poo HQ’. What promises to be a relaxing, stress free get-away, turns out to be an awkward (yet very hilarious) string of events following one after another beginning with a plane trip. As Kenny luxuriates in Business class flight, he can’t help himself but to go to the plane’s toilet and press every knob and button to work out just how the thing works. He is so intrigued by the power of the flusher, funnily enough he warns other passengers not to get their bottom to close when they flush as the power is so strong that could be sucked out from beneath. Soon, once he has returned to his passenger seat he notices the flight attendants running about trying to work out why the toilet was not operating properly. Again, Kenny being good old Kenny, he can resist and gets up to help the problem, introducing himself to staff and fixing the toilet; which we find was his fault because is did not snip some locks back properly. All is very amusing; we find it awkward being Kenny is going about his everyday life as a port-a-loo plumber but this time while airborne! This little exhibition scores a chain of dates with an attractive young flight attendant in Nashville throughout his stay, and of course his first glass of white wine.
At the expo, Kenny is like a in a candy store. He describes his reaction to all the plumber’s toys much like when his father first took him to the Melbourne Royal Show. As viewers, are most entertained by the mass quantity of ‘Poo Machines’ that can be compacted all at once in a single room. Jus the names of the machines is enough to send an audience into hysterics. Ie; ‘SuperSucker’, ‘Crust Buster’, ‘Root Cutters’, ‘Sewer Hog’, ‘Rooter Man’ and ‘Scotties Potties’.
Kenny is lucky enough to land an amazing corporate deal with the Japanese manufacturers. He is invited to a meeting to discuss ordering 67 port-a-loos which have installed TV’s inside. Kenny’s classic reaction to numbers, the Japanese and the plumber’s expo in generals is a life changing moment with his career working with ‘Splashdown Corporate toilet hire’. Offered a business position in the head office in Sydney with the company, Kenny turns it down, saying he prefers a more ‘hand-on approach’ which is quite hilarious seems his working with poo!

The film draws to a close at the end of the Melbourne Cup where Kenny is left to take along his son to work for the day due to the inconsiderate performance from his ex-wife. The day is very funny, seeing Kenny put is own son to work, losing him, then stealing a golf buggy to chase around the venue (which is occupied by 150 000 patrons) before crashing into a drunk man. This is a great climax to film, it is the sort of corporate event big enough for Australian’s to identify with and seeing Kenny running about the scene with less 2 employees this trying to manage toilets is very comical.

Kenny as an Australian Piece of Australian Cinema:
The film makers of Kenny are completely dedicated to replicating a character from the Australian way of life, there is no doubting here. Kenny does a magnificent job of reflecting the stereotypical working class of Australia. He is a port-a-loo plumber who wears filthy, dirty overalls, has a raw Aussie vernacular with a comic lisp, and live a routine relaxed life with is laid back much like that of the Australian culture. Like most Australian film’s Kenny was filmed on a tight budget, but filmmaker Clayton Jacobson does a great job of using the actors as the central tools for developing plot rather that heavy sound or visual effects like that of Hollywood. I enjoyed the fact that the filmmaker’s placed emphasis on conveying the story as realistic as possible. By including different scenarios’ and different types of themes, Australian audiences can be sure to find an incident that they would be able to relate to.

Production
The movie has filmed in digital, probably due to the fact, like most Australian films, was run on a low budget and could not afford to do so in film. Still, the digital camera has worked well.
Producer Rohan Timlock and Director Clayton Jacobson took advantage of some documentary filming techniques. Such include a handy-cam style of filming quality and walking behind a subject with so that it looks as you (as an audience member) are walking behind them. The camera was obviously not held in-place with a tripod, instead camera operators have roamed free with the camera; creating more natural, lifelike effect.
In one particular scene, Kenny is wearing a white scientist suit with a gas mask. He goes inside one of the large waste containers and operates on some of the valves. Another one of his co-workers in standing at the top of the container passing him tools why opening up his heart and giving Kenny his life story. Kenny replies with more comic relief, “I’m not really interested right now, I’ll talk to you later about it later because it doesn’t smell so good down here right now.” The scene would have been quite difficult to shot. Either to camera would have to be lowered down through the big pipe and angled accordingly, or the production team would have had to cut the container in half shot the scene in a dark room. Whichever, it was very realistic and audience really did feel like then were in the stinking container with Kenny.

References other than those above