Directed by Nick Giannopoulos
Running Time: 94 mins
Rated: M 15+
After the box office success of Nick Giannopoulos' The Wogboys, based on his stage play of the same name, The Wannabes is the innovative comedian's latest film and his first as director. Although he's ostensibly jettisoned his 'wogboy' persona, Giannopoulos' fingerprints are all over this film as well, which is a good-natured send-up of the children's entertainment group 'The Wiggles'.
Giannopoulos plays Danny, a teacher of mediocre 'wannabe' performers at a 'Talent School' run by his mother Sally (Chantal Contouri), whose life has been ruined by the experience of being 'gonged' off a TV talent quest by heartless judge Jimmy Young (Michael Carman from TV's MDA), in the late seventies.
Stuck firmly in the era of Grease, Danny is in retreat from life, until one day out of the blue four burly thugs offer Danny a large sum of money to groom them improbably for a one-off gig as a children's entertainment group. Balking at the challenge, Danny refuses, but changes his mind when he sights Kirsty (Isla Fisher), the attractive sister of Marcus (Russell Dykstra) the group's surly leader.
Dubbed 'The Wannabes', Danny puts heart and soul into making costumes, writing songs, and puts the motley group through an arduous regime to discover their 'inner selves'. Only when the day of the gig arrives, at a palatial mansion (Victoria's Government House), owned by the arrogant and snobbish 'Rory' Van Dyke (Lena Cruz), does Danny realise that he's become deeply embroiled in a heist.
Giannopoulos doesn't have the wacky depth of a Jim Carey, but his Danny succeeds in being foolish and endearing most of the time. The film's premise - that grown-ups can act like children and children can bear far more reality, at least in their humour, than adults give them credit for - works well until about midway. Then the plotting become a little routine.
Best are the performances from the many fine actors Giannopoulos has roped into the romp, particularly Lena Cruz as 'Rory' (a very funny send-up of Rose Hancock), Carman as Jimmy Young, and the Wannabes themselves (Costa Kilias, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Ryan Johnson, and Dykstra). There is some cross-dressing for fun, and amusing send up of the Oscars from Bert Newton and Rove McManus.
Jan Epstein is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.