Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kenny and Company Revisited

Kenny and Company is a gem of a film, directed by Don Coscarelli, made and set in the 1970s (1976). It's a suburban romp through four days in an eleven year-old's life. I saw it on HBO in the late 70s and have always remembered it.

It's fairly episodic as it tracks Kenny and his pals Doug and Sherman as they skateboard, flirt with girls, pull pranks, and avoid the town bully. I related to the characters, I even had the same hairstyle as Doug did when I was a kid. I liked this movie a lot and then it disappeared. It vaporized after HBO ran it. Gone.

A couple years later I flipped through the dial late one night when I spied Doug on the screen again. Only this time Doug wasn't running from the town bully, he was running from the Tall Man. It was Phantasm. I knew of Phantasm from its iconic silver sphere, but I was blown away. I didn't know there was a connection between the two films. And yet, there was young Michael Baldwin, riding his bike down the street, as he and Dan McCann did in Kenny and Company. There were other actors from Kenny that showed up in Phantasm, most notably the incomparable Reggie Bannister.

Phantasm developed a following immediately and spawned three sequels but Kenny and Company was hard to find. There was no VHS release. I posted a comment about the film on IMDB in 2001 and for several years, I got the same query from strangers: Do you have a copy of this movie? I did not.

They finally released Kenny and Company on DVD in 2005 and I watched it last night. It held up well. Watch this movie if you like:
  • films about the 1970s
  • independent, small budget movies
  • Phantasm and want to see some of its cast in different roles

This film has "emotional glue". Emotional Glue is a Don Coscarelli term. It's what makes you care more about the characters, allows you connect with them, with thematic elements that transcend the plot. The scene in Phantasm that provides the glue is when Mike Baldwin follows his older brother everywhere on his bike because he doesn't want to lose him, even if his bro is just driving to the grocery store, he'd pedal like mad to keep tabs on him. Phantasm had a heart.

There's a sub-plot in Kenny that provides glue. Coscarelli did a masterful job of dealing with a common childhood situation: the death of the family pet. He pulled it off without shedding a tear. He allowed me to connect the emotional dots without hitting me over the head with it. The emotional glue scene in Kenny and Company is the 360 panoramic shot of the vet's office waiting room while Bob the dog goes to a happier place.

Am I raving? Heck yeah. Go rent Kenny and Company. One more thing - I loved the music too. Put it in your Netflix queue. Do it!

No comments: