Splashdown’s manager of their portaloo business, Kenny Smyth (Shane Jacobson), takes viewers on a guided tour of his workplaces, from garden parties and rock concerts to the Melbourne Cup. He’s proud to explain the shitty nitty gritty of his work even if he gets frustrated by the reactions of other people to his job. While accompanied by the camera crew, he is hounded by the conflicts with his ex-wife, who seems to have trouble controlling their son Jesse (Jesse Jacobson). His ailing and grouchy dad Billy (Ronald Jacobson), enters the fray, but when Kenny gets to go to the ‘pumpers’ toilet convention in Nashville on his first ever plane trip, he meets sympathetic flight attendant, Jackie Sheppard (Eve von Bibra). But calamity at home quickly brings him back to earth.
Review by Louise Keller:
Kenny is the genuine article. Beyond the poo jokes, there’s plenty of character and heart in this hilarious mockumentary set in the world of a portaloo plumber who is as sensitive as he is pragmatic. He’s always taking care of business. And that extends far beyond excrement. From the S bend to the U turns of family matters, Kenny is philosophical about it all.
The Jacobson Brothers’ script wastes no time to set the tone from the start. Yes, a curry does make a bit of a difference, Kenny admits when quoting the number of portaloos required, basing his recommendations on a ratio of four liquid to one solid. But there is much more than toilet humour in this original and endearing film that is as true blue as the meat pie and every bit as tasty.
We follow Kenny on the job as he deals with body odours, lost rings and sewerage problems at rock concerts, beach festivals, fun fairs and the races when Melbourne’s greatest horse race takes place. We even join him on his first ever plane trip – to a toilet expo in Nashville. A toilet malfunction onboard ensures him a date with the hostess, and one good turn for an affluent Japanese businessman brings him well deserved and unexpected effluent success. But it is away from work that we learn most about this rough diamond, when he spends time with his son from his failed marriage and elderly father.
There’s a natural pathos in Shane Jacobson’s performance, which draws us to Kenny. We genuinely care what happens to this coarse Aussie bloke with the pot belly and a mild version of Bugs Bunny’s speech impediment that makes ‘city’ sound like ‘shitty’. He is not as silly as ‘a bumful of smarties’ because he’s ‘busier than a one-armed bricklayer in Baghdad’ and he is a paradox when it comes to sensitivity. Like the film, well observed one-liners go beyond the quick laugh, and cut to the quick.
Review by Lesley Chow:
Making a film about a portaloo plumber must have seemed like the perfect way to combine an underdog story with gross-out humour. The result should have been a zippy little comedy, but this movie is like a long, exhausted skit drawn out to feature length (it started off as a short film at the St Kilda Festival.) Kenny is supposed to be one of life's small battlers: tolerant, unassuming, happy with his place. He's likeable enough, but having a lead character who's this determined to be ordinary seems to give the script an excuse to be plodding and not that funny.
As an indication of the film's efforts, the first ten minutes contained no less than three jokes about curries and their consequences in the bathroom. A Japanese businessman (Morihiko Hasebe) is referred to as a "sushi cowboy" after riding a mechanical bull. The subject of sewage appears to get a strong reaction from audiences, which means there doesn't need to be interesting dialogue, or gags, as such: just lots of references to being a "crap-crawler" and having to "drop this load" (the writers aren't particularly creative when it comes to finding alternative terms for waste.)
The film mostly consists of Kenny talking about the difficulties of his work, while we look at the huge nozzles and guzzling tubes used to extract faeces. Performances are unremarkable, although Ronald Jacobson manages to be convincing as the hero's railing racist father. So it's basically 100 minutes of voice-over and some mild toilet humour: all done at a very slow pace.
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CAST: Shane Jacobson, Eve Von Bibra, Ronald Jacobson, Ian Dryden, Chris Davis, Jesse Jacobson
PRODUCER: Clayton Jacobson, Rohan Timlock
DIRECTOR: Clayton Jacobson
SCRIPT: Clayton Jacobson, Shane Jacobson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Not credited
EDITOR: Clayton Jacobson
MUSIC: Richard Pleasance
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 17, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
VIDEO RELEASE: December 6, 2006