Wise men come in many forms, and in the case of this mockumentary’s titular hero, he takes the shape of Kenny Smyth, an average Australian male, who happens to spend his working days, quite literally, sucking up shit.
From festivals to horse races, Kenny and his Splashdown crew are there, providing and attending to the temporary toilet facilities. It’s not a glamorous job, but someone, as they say, has to do it. And despite the negative reaction that some people (including his own father) have to his line of work, he’s quick to remind us that doesn’t have that much contact with the actual ‘product’, and even when he does, he says, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about, it’s 80% water and we’ve got chemicals to take care of the remaining 20.” Charming.
This is just one example of Kenny’s defiant pride, as he refuses to be dragged down by other people’s perceptions of him and his role in life. There’s a touch of pathos about Kenny (played brilliantly by co-writer Shane Jacobson), as you realise that the unfair judgements of other people have been detrimental to his life as a whole. He blames his work for causing his divorce, and when he’s on the job, his ‘customers’ treat him with nothing but disdain. However, as he states on several occasions, the problem lies not with the job, but with those that can’t accept him for who he is. After all, using the toilet is, as Kenny says, the one thing that unites us all.
Directed with profound sincerity by Clayton Jacobson (Shane’s real brother, as well as co-writer and Kenny’s brother in the movie), it’s not exactly a laugh a minute, but there are certainly enough one-liners and absurd situations to keep you smiling. And it’s not such a bad thing that the comic undertones are, for the most part, left to subtly support what is a compelling and heart-warming story, rather than taking centre stage. Although there are a few moments when things stretch the boundaries of realism, generally Kenny and the rest of the movie’s characters are played with such authenticity, each moment of joy, pride, shame or anger is palpable. Apart from the leading man, Kenny’s father (played by real-life dad Ronald Jacobson) provides one of the film’s stand-out performances, and is so real, you can almost feel the bristles of his beard.
However, in spite of Kenny’s many plus points, it doesn’t quite qualify as the ‘classic’ that some people are keen to tout it as. Often it relies too heavily on toilet humour (no pun intended), and you get the feeling that it would be funnier if it were for real. Those expecting a rip-roaring, laugh-out-loud comedy will be disappointed, but watched with no expectations, it’s a fantastic character study of its eponymous hero, and one which will hopefully make you appreciate more those who are paid to take your crap.
And while Kenny says that no one ever wants to shake his hand, by the end of this movie, you’ll wish you could give him a hug.