By Andrea Warner
It’s a safe bet that there’s never been a film so heavily laden with poop jokes that also packs as much emotional heft as Kenny.
The titular working-class hero of this Australian comedy is a gentle giant in overall shorts, busting his butt to balance his personal life (demanding ex-wife, bitterly aging father, a good rapport with his young son) with his professional life (an all-consuming job as the veritable prince of porta-potties.)
Shot documentary-style, the camera throws Kenny into one potentially degrading situation after another — determining the variety-of-food-to-toilet ratio at festivals (more curry means more potties), fishing a woman’s lost wedding ring from a toilet and putting up with a fussy customer haranguing his parenting choices. Kenny handles each situation with grace and aplomb. He’s proud of what he does and genuinely doesn’t understand why society looks down on his career.
Kenny’s naive glee is contagious as he hops a plane to Nashville to take part in an international porta-potty convention. His fish-out-of-water enthusiasm endears him to a fetching stewardess and a karaoke-loving Japanese businessman. Watching Kenny unknowingly negotiate a huge contract for his company is as pleasurable as watching his sweetly clumsy and innocent flirtations blossom.
Shane Jacobson’s Kenny is so charmingly real that every hit and every hurdle feels personal. He’s absolutely brilliant as he delivers one off-the-cuff monologue after another regarding the ins and outs of digesting and egesting. Jacobson co-wrote the script with his brother, Clayton Jacobson, who also served as the film’s director. Originally released in their native Australia in 2006, Kenny has become a cult sensation and is about to launch a television series.
The Jacobson brothers have crafted a remarkable first movie that hits at the epicentre of our service culture society — there’s an unfair stigma attached to those who do the jobs no one wants, but Kenny forces the audience to reflect on why this is and grapple with their own judgments. As Kenny deftly handles one landmine after another, it’s impossible to remain unaffected by his dignity and humour.
Kenny himself isn’t a typical centrefold fantasy, but this makes the Jacobson brand of manliness all the more refreshing in its inspiration. In this day and age, when more and more people are dissatisfied with their jobs and yet define themselves by what they do, Kenny was a crapshoot, and is now poised to become a cultural phenomenon.