Introducing his new film at the Australian Premiere, Nick Giannopoulos explained that it’s taken three and a half years to get it onto screen. One look at the audience and you’d be convinced they were on the edge of their seats, expecting then to watch something extraordinary. After all, so much time, and allegedly so much work had gone into it. How wrong they were. In fact, you’ll be straining the eyes to see where three and a half years of work is. It definitely doesn’t jump out at you from the screen.
A veteran comic in the country, Giannopoulos hit the big time a couple of years back taking his sold-out stage show ‘Wogs out of Work’ and turning it into a film, aptly titled “The Wog Boy”. Not a great film by any means, but good enough to ride the charts for a good part of its release year, ultimately scoring itself a plum posse on the chart of highest grossing Australian films of all time.
“The Wannabes” not only marks Giannopoulos’ first foray away from the “Wog” template, but signals his first attempt as a Director. And unfortunately, it shows. One look at the one-sheet, even the slipshod trailer and you know this one’s not going to have anywhere near the success as his first feature.
This time, Giannopoulos plays a wannabe entertainer who is roped into training a group of crooks into becoming a children’s group. Unfortunately for Danny (Giannopoulos), they’ve got nothing on their minds but stealing precious jewels from the mansion they’ll be ultimately gigging at – and he’s going to be caught smack-bang in the middle.
Giannopoulos and co-writers Chris Anastassiades and Ray Boseley have a great idea here – the ‘children’s’ group being such a trend at the moment – but unfortunately it just isn’t milked as well as it could’ve been. The script’s pretty chaotic, and the laughs, well, they don’t come thick and fast. The first half of the film – though nothing special – shows good potential, and does have the odd good moment, but by the middle it’s ostensibly no more than a series of stitched together gags that don’t seem to work.
The level of enjoyment you’ll get from the film also has a lot to do with whether or not you’re a fan of Giannopoulos. He’s very over the top here, and at times thwarting, but all in all – he’s giving it his best. Ditto to the wonderful Costas Kilias (also from “The Wog Boy”) who salvages the movie with a hilarious turn as gangster with a heart of ‘Solid’ Gold. Unfortunately, Isla Fisher doesn’t fare as well in her ‘little to do’ role of the film’s token love interest. Less chemistry here than a science lab on strike between her and Nick G.
It’s been a rather funny year for Australian films. They’ve been some beauties, some real dogs, and some in-betweens. “The Wannabes” falls somewhere near the middle. In some respects, it more than lives up to its title – It’s wants to be something special (read: riotous), but unfortunately plays no better than your average direct to video comedy. And unfortunately for Giannopoulos – because he is a great supporter and devotee to the Australian Film Industry – Video’s where this one will probably find its audience.
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