Danny (Nick Giannopoulos) never had much talent, but that didn’t stop him being a suburban song and dance teacher at his showbiz mother’s talent school. Along comes crim Marcus (Russell Dykstra) who hires Danny to teach him and his gang to be performers - as a children’s group. They want to crash a party that local billionaire Mrs Rory Van Dyke (Lena Cruz) is throwing for her grandson, and steal her fabulous diamond necklace. Danny’s mind is made up for him when he meets Marcus’ gorgeous sister Kirsty (Isla Fisher) and somehow, an inept and politically incorrect children’s group are thrust into the limelight. But things go badly wrong with the heist and The Wannabes are dragged into a kidnapping and other vile acts.
Review by Louise Keller:
Bursting with good intentions and a likeable cast, The Wannabes is the kind of film that you really wanna like, but is a bit short on laughs and hasn’t quite got the formula right. Nick Giannopoulos, who made Greek culture trendy long before My Big Fat Greek Wedding with his triumphant comedy hit, The Wog Boy, is a big talent. He has charisma and let’s face it, the perfect face for comedy. And he is darned likeable. He works the screen just as he works a room, and you can’t keep your eyes off him.
Directing for the first time on this new outing, Giannopoulos teams up again with his Wog Boy script writing partner Chris Anastassiades, to bring crazy, colourful thugs from the underworld into the world of children’s entertainment. But without the ultra black bite of a film like Death to Smoochy, exposing a very dark underbelly indeed as contrasting worlds collide, The Wannabes needs cohesion and a dramatic curve to allow us to be part of the world of these clumsy, innocent thugs.
Giannopoulos’ Danny is an innocent, walking the line oblivious to anything that is going on around him. He still lives in that idealistic make-believe world, when as an eight year old, he performed ‘You’re the One that I Want’ from Grease. The experience on the viciously judged talent show may have scarred him forever, but not enough to stop him from continuing to do more of the same – even though he has aged 25 years. The Wannabes team in their lime green, candy pink and orchard orange terry-towelling jumpsuits make a persuasive bunch – from Russell Dykstra’s Marcus, Ryan Johnson’s high-energy Hammer and Tony Nikolapoulos’ Stewie, who wears the wombat suit and actually gets more of a kick out of flirting with showbusiness than expertly cracking safes. I really like Isla Fisher as Marcus’ eye-catching sister Kirsty; the implied love interest between Kirsty and Danny is quite charming. Michael Carman’s Jimmy King is terrific and his character is well developed.
But there’s a deep-seated flaw in the script: when we first meet the guys singing – in rehearsal and then at their first gig – they are absolutely awful. So it never makes sense that they are suddenly an overnight sensation. It is not until they are in the recording studio and performing on Rove Live that suddenly they seem to be singing in tune with self-penned tunes peppered with memorable catch-phrases like ‘Smelly socks…. Pick my nose… smell my toes.” The plot includes kidnapping, a case of mistaken identity, a Rose Porteous-like hysterical lady of the manor who wants bedroom action, a long-lost father found and a frustrated transvestite longing to come out. Yes, The Wannabes
may be flawed, but it's likeable, and Giannopoulos will be back with another, funnier script another day.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There’s no denying that the premise is workable: crims planning to get inside a wealthy home to rob it in the guise of children’s entertainers – and then inadvertently becoming a hit act on the kids party circuit. The story elements are fine, but the delivery is missing.
There is a classic feel to the idea, and an old fashioned charm that has been missing from Australian comedies of late. The difficulty of executing this as a broad and broadly appealing comedy shows in the laboured nature of the film, which struggles for laughs through a script that hasn’t been sufficiently thought through. There is not enough credibility in the early scenes to make us invest in the characters as most of them are crude caricatures of themselves. There isn’t enough business to make this funny, either, and when the troupe perform at their first gig, we are not shown how they jump from inept mayhem to overnight success on television.
No, I didn’t miss a subtle dig at television standards, because the newly created Wannabes now sing in tune and have an act of sorts. They didn’t have clue before; and as characters, the group contains only one genuine striker, the edgy and excessive Hammer (Ryan Johnson), whose dialogue comes from his character and his character comes straight from the school of attitude. Russell Dykstra is given little to work with as a flakey crim, and Costas Kilias is miscast as Adrian, the growling, sneering silent type with a surprising secret, while Nick Giannopoulos is a good comic actor who can easily cross the line from larger than life funny and believable anti-hero. Newcomer Ilsa Fisher is effective, but it’s Lena Cruz who steals the film as the gold digger wife to an ageing millionaire, with a characterisation that pays homage to Rose Hancock in a wholehearted outing which sets the level at which the film might have been played by all – if not straight and dark and real (my preference, always).
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NICK GIANNOPOULOS INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
WANNABES, THE (M15+)
CAST: Nick Giannopoulos, Russell Dykstra, Isla Fisher, Ryan Johnson, Felix Williamson, M Michael Carman, Chantal Contouri, Lena Cruz, , Costas Kilias, Bert Newton
PRODUCER: Nick Giannopoulos, Tom Burstall
DIRECTOR: Nick Giannopoulos
SCRIPT: Chris Anastassiades, Ray Boseley, Nick Giannopoulos
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dan Burstall
EDITOR: Peter Carrodus
MUSIC: David Hirschfelder
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sally Shepherd
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 25, 2003