Assignment 2: Critical Review and Bibliography
25 April 2007
MED231 Australian Cinema
Dr. Garry Gillard
“The funniest Aussie film since THE CASTLE. Perhaps even funnier.” SUNDAY MAIL
CREDITED CAST (in alphabetical order):
Apathetic Airline Passenger: Randall Berger
Pat: Chris Davis
Man in Suit: Bernard Derriman
Sammy: Ian Dryden
Flame Thrower / Golf Buggy Victim: Nash Edgerton
Sushi Cowboy: Morihiko Hasebe
Son: Jesse Jacobson
Father: Ronald Jacobson
Kenny: Shane Jacobson
Nurse 2: David Michod
Raceway Thug: Warwick Sadler
Raceway Thug: Simon Scott
Jackie: Eve von Bibra
Crazy Man in Toilet: Damian Walshe-Howling
Directed by Clayton Jacobson
Written by Clayton Jacobson and Shane Jacobson
Produced by Clayton Jacobson, Shane Jacobson, and Rohan Timlock
Original Music by Richard Pleasance
Film Editing by Clayton Jacobson and Sean Lander
Sound Designer - Craig Carter
Foley Artist - Adrian Medhurst
Foley Recordist - Liam Price
Sound Re-recording Mixer - Peter D. Smith
Visual Effects by Matt Omond and Keith Meure
Stunts by Nash Edgerton (supervisor) and Warwick Sadler
Production Company - Thunderbox Films
Lightning Entertainment (2006) – worldwide
Madman Entertainment (2006) – Australia
Odeon Sky Filmworks (2007) – UK
South Australian Film Corporation – sound mix facility
OTHER FILM INFORMATION
Release Dates: Australia – 17 August 2006
AFI Best Direction 2006 (Clayton Jacobson)
AFI Best Editing 2006 (Clayton Jacobson and Sean Lander)
AFI Best Film 2006
AFI Best Screenplay – Original 2006
AFI Best Supporting Actor 2006 (Ronald Jacobson)
FCCA Best Director 2006 (Clayton Jacobson)
FCCA Best Film 2006
IF Best Director 2006 (Clayton Jacobson)
IF Best Editing 2006 (Clayton Jacobson and Sean Lander)
AFI Best Lead Actor 2006 (Shane Jacobson)
FCCA Best Actor in a Lead Role 2006 (Shane Jacobson)
FCCA Best Screenplay – Original 2006
IF Best Feature Film 2006
IF Best Script 2006 (Clayton Jacobson and Shane Jacobson)
IF Best Sound 2006 (Craig Carter and Peter D. Smith)
AFI = Australian Film Institute
FCCA = Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards
IF = inside film
Running Time - 97 minutes
Genre - Comedy, Mockumentary
Certification - Australia M
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Other Films directed by Clayton Jacobson
I’m Only Looking: The Best of INXS (2004)
“Music Jamboree” (2002) – TV Series
I Love U (2002)
Box Office Total - $7.6 million
DVD Release Date - 6 December 2006
Quotes from Critics:
"KENNY is the best Australian comedy since 'The Castle'... In fact, it's one of Australia's best ever... Hilarious, tender and true, KENNY is a little Aussie ripper" 4.5 stars – Sunday Times
"A sequel, please" 4 stars - Tom Ryan, The Age
"Extraordinarily funny" 4 stars - Jim Schembri, The Age
“The funniest local comedy since "The Castle"...” – yourMovies
“Lifting the lid on one man's passion, Kenny is the best Australian comedy for a very long time.” – Michael Idato, The Sydney Morning Herald
Memorable Quotes from the Film:
Kenny: “I'd love to be able to say "I plumb toilets" and have someone say "Now that is something I've always wanted to do". “
Kenny: “I’m used to people treating me like a biker at a beauty pageant. You just come to expect it.”
Kenny: “People freak out, coz they think I’m handling the stuff. I dunno if they think I eat it, or whether they think I scrub it on myself... I plumb it.”
Kenny: “It takes a certain kind of person to do what I do, if you’re a fireman all the kids will want to jump on the back of the truck and follow you to a fire... there’s not going to be any kids wanting to do that with me.”
To view the video trailer for Kenny, click on the link below:
Interview with Shane Jacobson and Clayton Jacobson
Webchat Transcript: Kenny’s creators Clayton and Shane Jacobson: Liz Hayes: 15 October 2006. http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/sixtyminutes/stories/2006_10_15/story_ 1797.
“The idea originally was to make a film, I mean being a filmmaker, I've spent the last 20 years looking for suitable subject matter and the answer, strangely enough was my young brother Shane. So initially, it was an idea to document some funny stories that we'd heard about the toilet industry and this character that Shane had developed.” – (Clayton Jacobson)
Interview with director Clayton Jacobson
SXSW ’07 Interview: “Kenny” Director Clayton Jacobson: Scott Weinberg: 21 February 2007.
“By asking the question "have you ever had your heart touched by a portaloo delivery man" or by relating the fact that our movie was the highest grossing Australian film for the past three years and on curiosity alone is worth a look.” – (Clayton Jacobson)
Interview with Shane Jacobson and Clayton Jacobson
Q&A Shane and Clayton Jacobson: Glenn Sumi:
“There's a feeling back home that in order for an Australian film to do well it has to be homogenized and become in a weird way 'less Australian.' We're hoping that Kenny can be embraced in other places to work against that notion." – (Clayton Jacobson)
Kenny: Sandra Hall: 16 August 2006: The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Lifting the lid on one man's passion, Kenny is an excursion into the fundamentals of human behaviour.”
Rating: 3.5 stars
Kenny: Matthew Toomey: August 2006.
“Kenny is a feel-good Australian film which looks at a simple man who loves life and provides a hilarious insight into the “poo industry”.”
Kenny: Al Cossar: In Film Australia.
“Kenny is through and through an affable blend of wry, laconic humour and warm character study, most reminiscent of both the straight faced ocker everyman-ism of The Castle, and the wide-eyed Aussie abroad set up of Crocodile Dundee. For the most part, it succeeds overwhelmingly at both.”
Rating: 4 stars
Kenny: Jonathan Dawson: 24 August 2006: ABC Tasmania.
“Kenny is a work of faux naiveté, a film very much in the style of those great mockumentaries of the past, from Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984) to Best in Show (Christopher Guest, 2000) where the humour lies in the deadpan presentation of grotesques and human absurdities as if they were the most normal matters in the world. “
Kenny: Karen Horsley: 28 August 2006: ABC Ballarat.
“So of course it's funny, really funny. But unlike many other local attempts at delving into the lives and loves of the suburban working class, where heartless, crudely drawn caricatures seem to suffice and a 'they're funny because they're stupid' tone prevails, the humour in Kenny is laced with a poignancy that displays a genuine understanding of, and affection towards the characters on the part of the writers.”
Rating: 4.5 stars
Kenny: Jake Wilson: 16 August 2006: The Age.
“Lifting the lid on one man's passion, Kenny is the best Australian comedy for a very long time.”
Rating: 3.5 stars
Kenny: Sharon Hurst: Cinephilia. http://www.cinephilia.net.au/show_detailed_review.php?movieid=3190&lin k=australia
“It’s great to see a film that humorously demystifies a basic bodily function, yet under the surface quietly explores some of life’s deeper themes through its very lovable main character, the “knight in shining overalls”. “
Rating: 3.5 stars
Kenny: Sabine Brix: MediaSearch, Australia.
“Although the film is laden with toilet humour it would appeal to most people who love a laugh and a bit of Australian larrikinism.”
Kenny: Timothy Voon: Timothey Voon Reviews.
“This is an enjoyable movie and is one of the surprise hits of Australian cinema this year. I am not sure if it will be premiering in other parts of the world, but it is a worthwhile watch if you come across it. The Australian lingo and humour, as well as Kenny's slight lisp may take some getting used to, but is no great hurdle for what is a well made, intelligent film.”
Rating: 3.5 stars
Kenny: Richard Kuipers: 21 August 2006: Variety.
“Funny enough to give scatology a good name, Aussie mockumentary "Kenny" is a consistently amusing and surprisingly touching portrait of a loveable lug who installs toilet blocks at public events. Spearheaded by Shane Jacobson's ace central perf, pic transcends the yecch factor to emerge as the funniest local laffer in years. Die-cast in Aussie vernacular and colloquialisms, "Kenny" looks set for hearty biz on home turf despite running a tad too long, but will need careful marketing to occupy offshore outhouses.”
Kenny: Jim Schembri: 1 January 2007: The Age.
“Apart from being one of the funniest and most heartfelt Australian comedy films since Malcolm (1986), the now-famous adventures of plumber Kenny Smyth (Shane Jacobson) revives the tradition in Australian cinema of exploring the lives of working-class men.”
Kenny: Russell Baillie: 9 November 2006: The New Zealand Herald.
“And though framed as a mockumentary at the start, it gradually drops the facade along the way. Otherwise, Kenny is hilarious - toilet humour and all - and surprisingly touching. Just remember to wash your hands afterwards.”
Rating: 4 stars
Kenny: Mark Lavercombe: 21 August 2006: Hoopla.NU.
“For anyone desiring a relaxing and amusing slice of Australian life without the darkness, perversion and murder so commonplace in our recent offerings, the story of a "glorified turd-burglar" may be just the ticket.”
Rating: 3.5 stars
KENNY’S ONLINE PRESENCE
Researching Kenny was not a difficult task, as there are many websites that offer information and reviews on the film. The majority of my research was done using search engines such as Google and Ask.com which brought up thousands of websites offering trailers, photos, quotes, reviews, DVD sales, and more for Kenny. The movie’s official website (www.kennythemovie.com) was very helpful in finding basic information on the film, such as cast and crew, distributors, and awards. I also came across a movie review query engine (http://www.mrqe.com/) that was really helpful in finding respectable reviews. Since the movie was only released a little under a year ago (August 2006) and was such a big hit, there was a multitude of reviews and interviews easily accessible. A sample of other websites used in my research are listed below:
Kenny (2006) At the Movies Review:
The Sydney Morning Herald DVD Reviews:
The Internet Movie Database:
Kenny is a comic film that follows a simple Australian working man, Kenny Smyth (Shane Jacobson), through his everyday life as a plumber. Although this may not seem like the most appealing story line for a film, the Jacobsons were able to beautifully craft an incredibly entertaining and touching film that has been a huge success.
Kenny Smyth delivers and installs outhouses for a company called Splashdown Portaloos. Kenny follows this character to multiple events including the Melbourne Cup, the St. Kilda festival, a drag race, and finally the International Cleaner and Pumper Expo in Nashville, Tennessee, referred to by Kenny as the “Poo HQ”. Throughout the film, we see Kenny constantly frowned on by society because of the trade he is in. From people not shaking his hand to others making rude remarks, it’s hard to not feel sorry for the guy. He is an optimistic, hard working man who always puts others before himself only to get walked all over and scoffed at by society. Kenny faces other struggles in the story as well, specifically his relationship with his father, son, and ex-wife. Kenny’s father strongly voices his disapproval of his job as a plumber, asking “when are you gonna get a real job” and making him take off his dirty overalls when entering his house. Kenny’s relationship with his ex-wife is no better than with his father. As he explains, her “occupation is to remind me that things can always go from bad to worse.” She repeatedly calls him with complaints about their son and his poor fathering skills. The relationship Kenny has with his son is another struggle in his life. Although he tries hard to be a good father, his work and ex-wife seem to get in the way.
But not every relationship in Kenny’s life is a struggle. On his flight to Tennessee, Kenny meets a very kind and caring stewardess, Jackie (Eva Von Bibra), who sees him for who he is, not what he does. They form a very delightful relationship in which we see just how kind-hearted and caring Kenny can be. Kenny’s trip to the States is cut short when he receives a phone call from his brother regarding his father’s health. He has to return to Australia immediately and once again face reality.
Although the humor in Kenny is what makes it such a great film, the story in and of itself is enjoyable. The audience develops an emotional connection with Kenny as they follow him through his everyday life and witness how he is treated and perceived by the people around him. There is a deeper underlying meaning to this story that deals with the treatment of people who work in trades that may appear “beneath” the majority of the working world. Kenny is the epitome of a hard working man who is passionate about what he does and kind and honest to everyone around him. It’s impossible to not admire his character, regardless of his trade. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would highly recommend it to anyone in need of a good laugh and a touching story.
Almost all of the reviews for Kenny that I read during my research were very positive. None of the critics who rated the film gave it below 3.5 stars (out of 5), and very few had any negative comments. The incredible box office numbers of and awards given to Kenny alone speak for its success. Prior to the release of Kenny, neither the directors nor actors were well known for any other films, so their performance could not really be compared to anything previous. Most critics were pleasantly surprised with the film, not knowing what to expect. Kenny is often compared to one of Australia’s number one films The Castle, and often considered to be on a similar level in terms of success and quality. Below I have compiled some of the strong praise given to Kenny by some critics, as well as some complaints about the film.
“I was pretty wary about seeing this film, finding the subject matter possibly repellent, and expecting a surfeit of Aussie toilet humour! Imagine my surprise and delight to find a charming story with a wicked wit and an enchanting main character (plus plenty of toilet humour!)” – Sharon Hurst, Cinephilia.net
“This is an enjoyable movie and is one of the surprise hits of Australian cinema this year. I am not sure if it will be premiering in other parts of the world, but it is a worthwhile watch if you come across it. The Australian lingo and humour, as well as Kenny's slight lisp may take some getting used to, but is no great hurdle for what is a well made, intelligent film.” – Timothy Voon,
“And though framed as a mockumentary at the start, it gradually drops the facade along the way. Otherwise, Kenny is hilarious - toilet humour and all - and surprisingly touching. Just remember to wash your hands afterwards.” – Russell Baillie, The New Zealand Herald
“For anyone desiring a relaxing and amusing slice of Australian life without the darkness, perversion and murder so commonplace in our recent offerings, the story of a "glorified turd-burglar" may be just the ticket.”- Mark Lavercombe, Hoopla NU
“Lifting the lid on one man's passion, Kenny is the best Australian comedy for a very long time.” – Jake Wilson, The Age
”The film is guilty of occasionally overextending his naivety for the sake of our sympathy though,. This is particularly evident on an extended set-up on an aeroplane that seems to be doing its best to have the audience leap up from their seats and run towards the screen to give it a big hug, such is his restrained pride at being the first person from his family to fly on a plane.” – Al Cossar, In Film Australia
“When we meet Jackie, Kenny’s love interest in the second half, I felt like she was the only other substantial character I had met in the movie, and I had to wait an awfully long time to meet her. “
- Al Cossar, In Film Australia
“The initial meandering nature of the story is not legitimated by its mockumentary format. Documentaries, despite their basis of truth, are as strongly narrativised as any work of fiction, and it seems that Kenny’s first act is there merely to establish characters in quirky and episodic ways rather than to provide any sense of overarching narrative momentum, and for all its humour and good intentions, its first thirty to forty minutes are somewhat listless.” - Al Cossar, In Film Australia
“Minus a few off-mike lines of dialogue, pic is technically OK, with Richard Pleasance's unobtrusive score adding to the down-home feel. Transfer to 35mm bears occasional scars of muddiness inevitable from multiple DV sources.” – Richaed Kuipers, Variety
“Some of them are cleverly done, yes. But I think it's egregiously overlong. I thought after about half an hour that was about all I wanted to know about Kenny. And I think it would have played really well as a medium-length film. But pushed out to feature length, I'm afraid I lost interest.” – David Stratton, At The Movies on ABC TV
CIRCUMSTANCES OF PRODUCTION
Kenny is truly a family film in the sense that it was written, directed, and produced by the Jacobson family. Not only did the Jacobsons handle the technical aspects of the film, they were cast, so to speak, as three of the main characters (Kenny, his son, and his father). The idea for the film originated from Clayton Jacobson, who after 20 years of searching, found appropriate subject matter for a film in, surprisingly, his brother Shane. The original idea for the film was to simply document some funny stories they’d heard about the plumbing industry. The film started off as simply a 47 minute short film. It was thrown into some small film festivals, including the St. Kilda Film Festival, where it received a lot of interest and positive feedback. Glenn Preusker, the owner of Splashdown portaloos, approached the guys about funding the production of taking their short film to another level and making it into a feature film. Not only did Splashdown provide the monetary backing for Kenny, it also supplied most of the equipment and company staff for the film. Clayton Jacobson has been said to refer to Glenn as ‘the dream maker,’ for he enabled his film to be what it is today. The Jacobsons had no intention for the film to take off like it has. Although the film only cost between $600,000 and $800,000 to make, it brought in over $7 million in its first 13 weeks after release, making it the best performing Australian film in Australia in the past three years.
The film was shot in true documentary style with few cast and crew members and a simple Sony PD170 camera. Often the shots are out of focus and shaky, making it seem that much more realistic. It was filmed mainly in Australia, more specifically Melbourne and Sydney, but in the United States as well (Nashville, Tennessee). The Jacobsons really intended for the film to be released only in Australia, as much of the humor appeals solely to Australians. However, the film will be released to the UK soon and possibly to the United States in the near future. It has already been released on the Qantas in-flight movie channel and has been a great success. Although the Jacobsons had no intention of Kenny becoming a hit, ithas delightfully proven it’s producers wrong.
PRIOR AND SUBSEQUENT WORK OF THE DIRECTOR AND ACTORS
Prior to the making of this film, essentially none of the directors or actors were well known for other performances. Clayton Jacobson previously directed a few music videos and short films that were shown in small film festivals, but nothing that can remotely compare to the success of Kenny. The use of comedy appears to be a common theme in Jacobson’s previous work, and can therefore connect it to Kenny. The Jacobsons grew up around comedy, performing stand up and participating in carnivals, so their sense of humor in Kenny comes to no surprise.
As far as the actors go, no one really had any substantial roles prior to the making of Kenny. Shane Jacobson (Kenny Smyth) only held one previous role in a short film titled Bella Rose in 2005. Eve Von Bibra (Jackie) played a few small parts in previous films, but again nothing compared to her role in Kenny.
Although there is nothing really to compare Kenny to at the moment for the Jacobsons or other actors, that’s not to say there won’t be in the near future. There is talk of them producing a TV series in which Kenny travels around the world to meet other plumbers and stay with them temporarily. Shane Jacobson’s performance in Kenny is sure to land him other roles as well in films to follow.
Since Kenny has not yet been released internationally, it is hard to say how well it will do abroad. As mentioned earlier, it has been shown on Qantas’ in-flight movie channel, and has received positive feedback from travelers and tourists. The film’s language is very Australian, and often hard to understand – especially with Kenny’s speech impediment. The humor as well appeals largely to the Australian culture, and therefore might not be as amusing to audiences abroad. In an interview with the producers, Rohan Timlock comments, “We don’t anticipate much success in the United States because of the vernacular,’ says Timlock. ‘A lot of the phrases won’t be familiar at all to Americans. When we were shooting in Nashville we took a little teaser trailer and they’d just look at us blankly and it was clear they hadn’t understood it at all.” However, that’s not to say that the story in and of itself is not going to attract foreign crowds. It is a very charming story regardless of the language and humor.
Kenny is classified as a comedy, but perhaps more specifically a mockumentary. The term mockumentary comes from the joining of the words ‘mock’ and ‘documentary.’ It is presented as though it were a true documentary, following the real life of an actual person, when in fact it is fictional. Although Kenny Smyth is seemingly a real person, he is simply the creation of the Jacobson brothers.
As Dr. Garry Gillard discusses in his illustration of comedy, “it's fairly easy to identify comedy: it's simply what gives rise to a humorous reaction, to amusement, and often to laughter, especially in groups.” From this general definition, it is very clear that Kenny is a strong example of a comedy film. I would have to say that the entire film is centered about the constant use of Australian “toilet humor,” and succeeds greatly in doing so. To characterize this film more specifically in this genre, I propose it to be placed in the category of domestic comedy. There is no question that this is a true Australian film. The humor, lifestyle, language, and location are all entirely Australian with the exception of Kenny’s short visit to the United States. The majority of the humor appeals solely to Australians, with memorable quotes such as “As soon as the sun comes out every bastard has a festival, it just goes bonkas. It’s as silly as a bum full of smarties” used throughout the film.
In addition to the websites cited above, other sources used in the research of this paper are as follows:
Garry Gillard, Ten Types of Australian Film, Chapter 8: Comedy.
Kenny. 2006. DVD. Written by The Jacobson Brothers, Directed by Clayton Jacobson.
Margaret Pomranz, At The Movies, Kenny, http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1697820.htm
The brothers, the tradies and the Splashdown angel, 11 January 2007, http://www.evolvemedia.com.au/index.cfm?p=2492