Kenny & Company

      Comments Off on Kenny & Company

Don Coscarelli’s films, no matter their genre, feel uniquely personal to the filmmaker; these are the films Coscarelli always wanted to make. In a manner similar to that of John Cassavetes, Coscarelli manages to make films that in some inexplicable way feel like an extension of his own personality. From Phantasm (1979) and The Beastmaster (1982) to Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) it doesn’t matter what the narrative or subject of a film is because Coscarelli will make it his own.

Coscarelli’s second feature, Kenny & Company (1976) is unlike the director’s other works in terms of its formal qualities. Kenny & Company is episodic; structured around a series of every-day events in the life of a twelve year old boy in Southern California. These episodes are so loosely strung together that the thematic core of the film creeps in subtly. Kenny & Company belongs to the tradition of Little Fugitive (1953) and Jeremy (1973) and is a forerunner to Licorice Pizza (2021). All four of these films are portraits of childhood on the cusp of entering a phase of maturity and each film is a document of a specific time and place.

In the days leading up to Halloween Kenny (Dan McCann) must learn some hard lessons about mortality. Even though the bulk of Kenny & Company focuses on the titular character’s very typical boyhood misadventures with his best friend Doug (A. Michael Baldwin), the confrontation with mortality provides a direct through line across all of the vignettes. Coscarelli never browbeats his audience, preferring instead to let these themes creep up out of Kenny’s encounters as naturally as possible.

Coping with the loss of his dog Bob is the centerpiece of Kenny’s character. The death of Bob colors Kenny’s previous pranks with a dummy differently just as it motivates him to embrace life; first by talking to the girl he likes and then by confronting his bully. This may all seem low-stakes but for a twelve year old boy few things could be more difficult.

Coscarelli treats his subjects gently, endowing Kenny & Company with a breezily honest quality. Coscarelli knows that the loss of a pet, particularly as a child, is an intensely emotional and formative experience. When Kenny loses Bob Coscarelli knows that his audience’s memory will do all the heavy lifting and his film can more on to how that death shapes Kenny’s character rather than show Kenny languishing in grief.

Kenny & Company is very much of the same cloth as Coscarelli’s better known Phantasm. Both films deal with children confronting death as they enter adolescence. Where Phantasm takes a more fantastic approach, Kenny & Company embraces the slice-of-life approach to its storytelling. These are companion films that see Coscarelli at his best as a filmmaker and his most compassionate as an artist.