Kenny was the Little Picture That Could in 2006. A very Australian, and very low-budget comedy about a toilet plumber, it became a big hit on its own turf, and ended up with six AFI Award nominations, including Best Film, which it lost to Ten Canoes. It did win Best Actor for Shane Jacobson, who played the title role..
Kenny is a toilet plumber. Organise a big event and he and his faithful “Splashdown Crew” will be in there early, setting up and maintaining the many portaloos you’ll need. It’s not many people’s idea of a good job, but it’s something Kenny is good at and he takes a pride in it.
Written and directed by Clayton Jacobson, his debut feature, Kenny is a real family affair. Not only does the director’s brother play the lead role, but their real-life father Ronald plays their cantankerous on-screen father (and gained an AFI Best Supporting Actor nomination for it), but Shane’s son Jesse plays Kenny’s son, who lives with Kenny’s divorced wife and to whom Kenny is devoted.
Kenny is filmed mock-docu style on digital video, and what little plot there is follows Kenny at work, and at home with his family. Meanwhile, Kenny gets to visit a bathroom expo in the USA and his domestic assignments increase in scale, culminating in the Melbourne Gold Cup. Kenny is an engaging companion for ninety minutes or so, and that’s enough to sustain the film without bolting on extraneous plot action as a mainstream Hollywood production would have done. The humour is often scatological, but mean-spirited it is not. Like The Castle to which it bears some resemblance (though I thought The Castle was funnier) the film is a celebration of the ordinary man against those who would put him down or patronise him. Though I doubt many people would want to do his job, Kenny remains very likeable.
How well this will go over with an international audience remains to be seen – as I write, the film has just had a wide release in UK cinemas. I’m also not sure how much mileage the character of Kenny has: I suspect a sequel will be demanded, but really once is enough.
Madman’s DVD release of Kenny is encoded for Region 4 only. The DVD transfer is anamorphic in a ratio of approximately 1.85:1. (The IMDB says the original ratio is 1.66:1, but I doubt that.) Kenny was shot on digital video – not hi-def – and its source does show in the picture, which is sharp with vibrant colours but without the slickness of higher-definition material. Occasionally line structure becomes visible, but there is nothing objectionable here.
Two soundtrack options are available, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital. For much of the film, the track is front and centre, but every so often directional effects use the surround speakers: planes, cars and trucks. The subwoofer is particularly noticeable when contributing to a large explosion halfway through. Kenny speaks with a combination of a lisp and a strong Aussie accent, so many viewers will be grateful for the subtitles which Madman have provided.
The audio commentary features Clayton Jacobson and Shane Jacobson, the latter in character as Kenny. This threatens to become a little wearing, especially early on when Kenny has to have the purpose of a DVD commentary explained to him. This soon settles into the two men chatting for an hour and a half, amiably enough but without saying anything you didn’t already know.
Eleven deleted scenes follow, which can be played individually, or there is a play-all function. In order, they are: “Bed Pan” (1:41), “Bum Symphony” (1:00), “God’s Tears” (1:34), “Gun Safety” (1:53), “Hat With Hair” (0:53). “I’m Not a Ding A Ling” (1:12), “Kenny and Jackie Take Flight” (2:34), “Marital Counselling” (0:58), “Sammy Is Not Like the Other Boys (1:01), “They Call ’em Restrooms” (0:49) and “They Watch Me Like a Hawk” (0:41). Also on the disc is the theatrical trailer (1:44) and “Madman Propaganda”. This last section begins with an advertisement for a Kenny action figure, before trailers for other Madman DVD releases: The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, Ten Canoes, Three Dollars, Look Both Ways, The Mysterious Geographic Explorations Of Jasper Morello, My Brilliant Career and Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill. Included in the DVD box is a small booklet, “Toilet Companion Quiz Book”. It’s the sort of lightweight, stocking-filler type book, but amusing enough. The back page advertises further Kenny merchandise.
Kenny is a film which is constantly mildly amusing but without too much overt slapstick. A hit with Australians, it’s less certain to travel offshore. Madman’s DVD is certainly pretty decent.