3 out of 5
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Is it likely I would be watching Kenny & Company if not for its director? Considering, firstly, that it’s difficult to watch in an official format at this point (2021), no, it’s firstly not likely I would stumble across it by accident, and secondly, a coming-of-age 70s beat flick is not exactly my go-to-genre. But just as a haunted house jump scare audience response in this flick encouraged that director – Don Coscarelli – to try horror with his next flick, Phantasm, which would be one of the filmic reasons I became a fan of his work – thus very linearly without Kenny & Company there is no Phantasm – and so it seems fitting to end up being drawn back to view it this way.
The next question is: am I being more favorable towards the movie because of that dedication? In the sense that I paid more attention to shot composition, and could note the friends-and-family nature of the production – yes, but otherwise, K & C is a wholly, easy-going and enjoyable flick. It’s totally ramshackle, with little in the way of plot except “here’s a few days in the life of Kenny,” but it’s also not out to especially prove anything or “be” anything besides that. So there’s no excessive goofball comedy, or quirk, or ham-fisted morals, although aspects of all of that stuff is there, just as it might be in any of our lives; and combined with Coscarelli’s even-then notable skill at stringing scenes together and finding naturalistic but absorbing ways of capturing his shots, the movie is more engaging than an offhand summary of those ramshackle events might suggest.
Casting played just as big of a part, though. Little Michael Baldwin was a goddamn cute-as-buttons superstar in the movie – you gotta wonder at career directions if he had landed some more major role after this and Phantasm – and Dan McCann’s Kenny, though in an interestingly less showy role for being the title character, perfectly captures the amiable haze between rabble rouser and innocent that we can find ourselves in as kids. Coscarreli smartly keeps the voiceover narration sparse, so it feels like we get just enough cues to know what Kenny might be thinking as he wanders or skateboards down the street, and McCann can then bounce back and forth from despondence to giddiness in an unforced manner. A small roles form Reggie Bannister as a teacher adds to the unassuming charm of the movie – it’s a role that would be overplayed and shticky in other similiarly toned films, but you just kind of believe it here.
But again, there are no great life lessons or laugh-out-loud moments to be had. Coscarelli indulges us with some skateboarding tricks to toss some “action” in there, and a showdown with a bully is our climax but it’s delivered with the same off-handed “and then this happened…” vibe. While you might not walk away from the film necessarily remembering it, it’s also not a boring watch, and as a Coscarelli fan, it’s cool to note how solid his camera-eye was early on.