Sunday, September 17, 2006


Would you watch a movie about a man who is some sort of a foreman in a gang which provides portable toilets at major public events? Not exactly the sort of film that jumps with appeal; some might be rather disdainful of it, given the topic. I rather suspect that is the point of this mockumentary about Kenny (Shane Jacobson), who works for a firm which obviously tries to deflect some of the snobbery by saying they deal in "corporate bathroom rentals". As Kenny himself puts it, I'd love to be able to say "I plumb toilets" and have someone say "Now that is something I've always wanted to do". But in his line of work, respect from the general public is quite lacking. So, respectable ladies think it is quite OK to give him a good telling off.

I know when the movie was starting and Kenny was starting to talk about w
hat his day would bring, I was wondering whether I should walk out. He's asking someone about the catering arrangements for their party, wondering if there will be any curries or other spicy foods. No? Well, no need for extra loos then. How on earth could they make anything interesting out of this? And yet, not only was it interesting, it was really funny, without (sorry) engaging in toilet humour. And, no, as far as I can recall, there are no shots of anything disgusting - we see a lot of portaloos, and we hear talk of the kind of work these guys might have to do to keep them functioning, but it isn't overloaded with such talk.

Instead, it is just a movie about this guy Kenny, who has quite a nice line in self-deprecating humour. His dad is really worried that he's not doing any better for himself, and he has the ex-wife from hell, but he's trying his hardest to keep his relationship going with his young son. And with his own father, despite him being one of the most ornery old codgers you could hope to meet, although I think we are supposed to extract the idea that behind all the criticism, he means well.
Then there is Kenny's brother, who is painted as a snob (but really, who would turn up to a posh restaurant as a guest in the uniform they wear when doing their corporate bathroom hire work?). All three of them end up on this excruciatingly cringe-worthy camping trip, meant somehow to show solidarity with dad. I did think it a little unfortunate that these two characters were drawn in such black and white terms

Kenny ultimately does good. He is sent to some huge bathroomware expo in Nashville, managing to make a friend with the Qantas hostess along the way. Once there, he is totally blown away by the technology on offer. I've read somewhere that he is a Crocvdile Dundee figure, but he reminded me more of the portrayal of Burt Munro in the World's Fastest Indian - ready to talk to anyone and innocent in the ways of the world. So, he gets talking to this delegation of Japanese businessmen, who are most impressed with his line of corporate
bathrooms. He's not there as a salesman, but that doesn't stop him.

One of the funniest things I have seen all year was in this movie. One of their jobs is the annual dragraces, where a group of locals routinely sets fire to the portaloos. Kenny is determined not to let it happen this year, and has a plan. Unofrtunately, it is not well executed, so we see him and his crew in their little truck still on the race track when the Monster Truck race starts.

So, despite the unlikely subject matter, this is a movie in which the central character grows on you, as a man with his own sort of dignity, to the point that you want things to work out for him and for people to stop being so horrible when they're really no better than he is. Admittedly, the movie does lay it on a bit thick in its closing scenes at the Melbourne Cup races, when some of the snobby people turn out to act more disgracefully than anything Kenny would do.

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