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Originally published Friday, August 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Movie review

Under all the potty talk in "Kenny," there's wit and warmth

Movie review: "Kenny," a mockumentary about an Australian plumber, begins as a scatological nightmare but becomes a portrait of a hardworking guy who embraces his expertise.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

"Kenny," with Shane Jacobson, Clayton Jacobson, Ronald Jacobson. Directed by Clayton Jacobson, from a screenplay by Shane and Clayton Jacobson. 100 minutes. Rated PG-13 for swearing and scatological references. Grand Illusion.

Trust me: This is not a date movie.

The first 10 or 15 minutes of "Kenny," an Australian mockumentary by Clayton Jacobson, are a scatological flurry. Crude (if punning) shop talk by the title character — a plumber whose expertise is renting out and servicing those much-maligned if ubiquitous porta-johns found at outdoor concert events and the like — is enough to put you off romance (and food) for the evening.

Kenny's over-the-phone query to a potential customer as to whether curried fare will be served to festival guests pretty much pushed me to my limit. But if you can get past that quarter-hour of relentless discussion about human waste and the limits of porta-johns in extreme situations, you'll soon find yourself in a very entertaining and clever movie.

For the most part, "Kenny" looks like a real documentary following the daily grind of a barrel-chested philosopher-prince (Aussie comic Shane Jacobson, the director's brother). Through his nonstop if humble patter, Kenny makes clear that honest work is honest work, and he enjoys his expertise at keeping plastic stalls operating efficiently, despite nightmarish challenges.

Kenny's crew of slackers and neurotics is enough of a problem for him. But the disdain that people — the loutish and well-heeled alike — demonstrate toward him for his necessary if unappealing service is nothing short of monstrous. (Even Kenny's father, a human wreck played by the star and director's father, Ronald Jacobson, attacks his son for his work.)

Yet, for all that, Kenny's self-confidence is strong and his unvarnished perspective on humanity's bathroom habits crosses class lines. He's a well-spoken professional and single dad who cares about his son, doesn't expect a lot and exudes a low-key chivalry.

When his boss sends him to Nashville to attend a sewage convention, he meets a flight attendant who clearly likes him. But in a life punctuated by frequent disasters involving leaking lines and a vicious ex-wife, Kenny is cautious about impulse.

"Kenny" is a swiftly moving comedy that hides its seams well as faux-reality. The Jacobsons immerse their production in a number of densely populated scenes — sporting events, car races, an actual convention — that lend the proceedings texture and authenticity. But the film's real accomplishment, in this era of masked superheroes, is making a paladin of a regular guy whose ethics we can all emulate.

Tom Keogh:

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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