Critical Review and Bibliography
27 April 2007
MED 231 - Australian Cinema
Dr. Garry Gillard
Part 1: Film Information
||Australia - M
||UK - 15
||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Principle Cast and Crew
| ||Chris Anastassiades
| ||Ray Boseley
||Nick Giannopoulos (producer)
||Tom Burstall (producer)
||Andrew Penney (executive producer)
||Jennie Hughes (co-executive producer)
||Roger Rothfield (co-executive producer)
||Nanette Fox (associate producer)
||Elisa Argenzio (line producer)
||G.O. Films Pty. Ltd.
||Macquarie Film Corporation Limited
||Cinemavault Releasing International (Worldwide - all media)
||Lighthouse DVD (UK - DVD)
||Aurora 'Rory' Van Dyke
||Barney the Bear
||Granville Van Dyke
|USA - Tribeca Film Festival premiere
||8 May 2003
|Australia - Melbourne premiere
||15 September 2003
||25 September 2003
|France - Cannes Film Market
||17 May 2004
Budget and Box Office Figures
|Opening Week ($AUD):
|% of Final:
||25th - 28th Sep
||2nd - 5th Oct
||9th - 12th Oct
|Australian DVD and Video Industry Awards
||Australian Film Title of the Year
|Screen Music Awards, Australia
||Best Feature Film Score - David Hirschfelder
Bibliography of Interviews
Interview with Nick Giannopoulos - by Linda Airey
'I am thrilled The Wannabes is the first Australian feature film to be invited to the Tribeca Film Festival... I hope I can do Australia proud.'
--Nick Giannopoulos (Director, Scriptwriter, Producer)
Interview with Nick Giannopoulos - by Angela Bishop
From 'Inside The Wannabes' - Video interview on The Wannabes DVD 'Special Features'
'The reason why I chose The Wannabes as my directorial debut was that it is so different from everything else I've done in the sense that it's not a Wog-themed comedy... I'd been doing the Wog stuff for 15 years and it was time just to put it to rest and to move on...
I very much wanted it to be an ensemble comedy. I didn't want it to be just about me... I'm pretty happy with it so far in that everybody in this film gets a chance to show their stuff. And even if you're a Nick Giannopoulos fan, by the end of this film you'll be a Ryan Johnson, Lena Cruz, Russel Dykstra, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Isla Fisher fan as well.'
--Nick Giannopoulos (Director, Scriptwriter, Producer)
Interview with Nick Giannopoulos - by Simon Castles
Interview with Nick Giannopoulos - by Megan Ellul
From 'Wannabe Crazy Mind', Mx: Citybeat, 19 September 2003, p. 24.
'I've had more bad reviews than good ones, it doesn't really matter. People just seem to make up their own minds... And regardless of what happens with this film, I'm still proud of it, whether it makes it at the box office or not. The importance of this film is that an Australian film got made.
--Nick Giannopoulos (Director, Scriptwriter, Producer)
Interview with Nick Giannopoulos - by James Norman
From 'Aristophanes with attitude', The Age, 4 October 2003.
Interview with Nick Giannopoulos - by Justin Norrie
From 'What d'ya wannabe?', The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 September 2003.
Interview with Nick Giannopoulos - by Andrew L. Urban
'I sneak back in and watch the film with the audience. I listen to people. I went to see the film 20 times now, and I sit there and watch where they laugh - or where they don't... That was very useful to see what makes AUDIENCES laughˇ not me; them.'
--Nick Giannopoulos (Director, Scriptwriter, Producer)
Bibliography of Reviews
Reviews from Journals, Newspapers and Radio:
From 'Movie Reviews on 666 Afternoons', ABC Canberra, 22 September 2003, Presenter: Andrea Close.
From 'The Wannabes', The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 September 2003.
'The dialogue features a robust spray of four-letter words and other references to bodily functions which can give pause even to the experienced gross-out viewer, mainly because they keep ambushing you with their gratuitousness.'
From 'THE WANNABES (FILM)', Variety Vol. 391, Issue 1, 19 May 2003: 30.
'While there's nothing subtle or sophisticated going on in the writing or performances, the natural affinity of the ensemble proves enjoyable and, as the title suggests, the characters are losers with aspirations, making them a likable bunch.'
From 'The Wannabes: from Wog Boys to Wannabes', Metro Magazine 139, Winter 2004: 42-44.
'Overall, in spite of a few entertaining and funny sequences, the whole project lacks energy and flair.'
Reviews from the Internet:
Bond, Gavin - Quickflix
'The satirical element is underdeveloped and extremely unsubtle and gives way to the uninvolving and generally unfunny heist shenanigins.'
Buckmaster, Luke - In Film Australia
'Is it a movie for grown ups? Is it a movie for kids? The film's tonal indecision subsequently renders it inappropriate for any specific demographic.'
Cinematic Intelligence Agency
'Wog boy meets wanky actor meets the Wiggles from Hell. Sometimes it's funny but mostly it's embarrassing.'
Groenewegen, Stephen - eFilmCritic
Johanson, Maryann - The Flick Filosopher
'A terrifying attempt at a children's movie... or a horrible attempt at satire.'
Keller, Louise - Urban Cinefile
'Yes, The Wannabes may be flawed, but it's likeable, and Giannopoulos will be back with another, funnier script another day.'
Kemp, Terry - DVD.net
'It's fair to suggest that most punters will struggle to find anything very amusing within, but those who enjoy very lightweight comedies that require no brain power will almost certainly get a few laughs.'
Kwok, David - Tribeca Film Festival
'This uproarious Australian import is gut-busting fun from the opening image to the end credits.'
Morris, Clint - Moviehole
'The script's pretty chaotic, and the laughs, well, they don't come thick and fast.'
Pascuzzi, Carmine - Mediasearch
'It's not as good as The Wogboy, but this is a very different and bold film.'
Shaw, Mike - Ripe Old Chicken
Stratton, David - The Movie Show
Urban, Andrew L. - Urban Cinefile
Vogt, Brandon Robert - DeVoteD DVD
Weinberg, Scott - eFilmCritic
'Imagine Death to Smoochy meets Ocean's Eleven, only funnier than both of those.'
Aside from the websites that have been listed above, below are useful sites concerning the film The Wannabes.
Part 2: Critical Review of Film and its Literature
Plot / Synopsis
The Wannabes is a story about Danny (Nick Giannopoulos), a failure in the entertainment industry who is unaware of his lack of talent. He grows up without a father figure and is pushed on by his mother to continue pursuing a career in entertainment. One day, he gets hired by a group of men who want to become children entertainers. They ask Danny to help them develop a routine for an upcoming birthday party at the prominent Van Dyke estate. Reluctant at first, Danny becomes lured into the project under the influence of the lovely Kirsty (Isla Fisher) - a sister of one of the group members. These men, however, are actually criminals who are plotting to steal a precious necklace from the estate. Their plan is to access the house under the guise of children entertainers for a big birthday party at the estate and then sneak into the Van Dyke bedroom to steal the valuable necklace. However, the plan falls through and the criminals end up leaving the house without the jewellery.
Although their original plan has failed, a new means of making money has arisen. Their performance at the party ends up being a big success and the four-some, dubbed 'The Wannabes' quickly become Australia's next big pop-culture icon. In the midst of their success, their previous attempt at robbing the Van Dyke estate is leaked out and Rory Van Dyke (Lena Cruz) kidnaps Kirsty's son Oliver (Nicholas Fleming), using him as bait to threaten The Wannabes. The two sides then reach an agreement and Danny promises to capture Bill Gennaro (Felix Williamson) for Rory's sexual pleasure - and for her scheme to get rich from her dying yet wealthy husband - in return for Oliver. The Wannabes perform the kidnapping during the OZcar Awards ceremony and bring Gennaro to Rory. However, after a series of events and twists, all of the main characters end up at the Van Dyke estate, which turns into a chaotic madhouse, and suddenly all of the sub-plotlines come to a resolution. Rory's get-rich scheme is uncovered, Oliver returns to his mother and the rest of the characters find their true identities, partners and / or callings in life. The story ends happily, with the reunification of Danny's parents and Danny and Kirsty falling in love.
The Wannabes is not meant to be taken seriously. If watched with the intent of being mentally stimulated or deeply involved, then the film will disappoint miserably. But if watched with a light heart and low expectations, then the film will entertain. The plot is scattered and almost irrelevant, with too many sub-plots, an excessive number of confusing twists and a climax that is chaotic and largely unbelievable. The acting is reasonable, with impressive performances by the characters of Rory Van Dyke (Lena Cruz), Hammer (Ryan Johnson), Marcus (Russell Dykstra) and Kirsty (Isla Fisher), all who seem to portray their characters rather believably and humorously. Also, the music in the film - silly children's music with comical lyrics - fits perfectly and is done by renowned composer David Hirschfelder.
The Wannabes delivers in terms of silly laughs and crude humour, accomplishing what it sets out to do as a comedy film. The characterisations are outrageous enough to elicit plenty of laughter. For example, Hammer is a white, metro-sexual, womanising wannabe gangster rapper. One of the highlights in the film is when he is performing in front of the children - he begins by beat-boxing and finishes by delivering an impromptu sexually-charged rap. His pathetic attempt at rapping in spite of his desire to be a successful rapper is what makes the scene funny - similar to Danny's desire to be an entertainer but failure in doing so. At times, however, the crude humour is a bit excessive and over the top, such as the child Oliver's mentioning of a 'throbbing schlong' and the actions of the sex-crazed Rory Van Dyke. But when taken with a light heart, the film does not fail to entertain.
The Wannabes may not be one of the greatest comedy films ever made in Australia, but it still provides the occasional laugh and a fun, cheery atmosphere. Not bad, considering one man - Nick Giannopoulos - was responsible for directing, writing, producing and acting in the film.
The reviews of The Wannabes from critics are generally negative. The film is criticised as having little to no plot, as being filled with cheap laughs elicited by crude and shallow humour, as not being clear in its target audience and as having uninspired and confused actors. However, there were a few positive reviews, and it seems that The Wannabes finds its niche amongst the light-hearted, easy-going audience. One of the main criticisms was that the film fails to cater to any defined market audience. Its silliness makes it seem like a children's film, but its obscenities - both visual and auditory - make it unsuitable for children. Even though Giannopoulos seems to be more concerned with making distinctly Australian products rather than trying to define a target market, The Wannabes did not seem to gather much success - both in Australia and in other countries (Ellul 2003). Certainly, with its relative lack of success and significant amount of negative criticism, the film cannot do much for the betterment of Australian film, and the Australian film industry will have to look elsewhere for definitive films that will distinguish it and further its value in the film industry.
Circumstances of Production, Release and Box Office
Teaming up again with Chris Anastassiades, co-writer for the widely successful film The Wog Boy (2000), Nick Giannopoulos set out to write a comedy film that was different from his previous wog-themed works, yet still distinctly Australian (Giannopoulos is very vocal about his support for the Australian film industry). The product became a script for The Wannabes, which was made over a span of three and a half years. Giannopoulos ended up directing, producing, writing and acting in the film and part of the reason why it took so long to make was because he spent a lot of time editing the film to cater towards the audience, making sure that the material would make the audience laugh (Urban 2003). It was filmed in Melbourne, Australia, produced by GO Films and Macquarie Films and distributed by Cinemavault Releasing International, Hoyts Distribution and Lighthouse DVD.
The film premiered in May 2003 at the Tribeca Film Festival in the United States, later premiering in Melbourne and then the rest of Australia in September 2003. It eventually was released in New Zealand (February 2004) and France (May 2004) as well. According to Wilshire (2004), The Wannabes was highly publicised in Australia prior to its premiere, with posters on the streets, plugs for the soundtrack in record stores and numerous appearances by Giannopoulos on television shows. However, the film was released during the Australian school holiday period and therefore faced tough competition to newly released Hollywood blockbusters (ibid.). Consequently, its success at the box office was not impressive. Opening week brought in around $368,000 AUD, and totally box office sales ended up being a bit over $1.2 million AUD, ranking 113 of 293 in films released in Australia in 2003 (Movie Marshal).
Subsequent and Prior Work of Crew and Cast
Nick Giannopoulos (Director, Writer, Producer, Actor)
As a first-time director, Giannopoulos does a fair job in terms of producing a light-hearted comedy, but there is plenty of room for improvement in future endeavours. The success of The Wannabes has been a disappointment when compared to Giannopoulos's lead acting and writing role in The Wog Boy, which grossed over $11.4 million AUD (Movie Marshal). His career in television, specifically in Wogs out of Work and Acropolis Now, also helped bring him to fame and was probably more successful in terms of winning the hearts of the Australian audience. Although well-known for his wog-related humour, Giannopoulos consciously decided to make The Wannabes a different type of comedy and his bold move may have been part of the reason why the film did not perform as well in the box office.
Dan Burstall (Cinematographer)
Dan Burstall has not had a long past in cinematography or directing prior to The Wannabes, with his biggest project as cinematographer being Ladybugs (2002) with Rodney Dangerfield (IMDb). Burstall's other works mainly include small, lesser-known television series.
Chris Anastassiades and Ray Boseley (Co-writers)
Chris Anastassiades has successfully teamed up with Giannopoulos in previous projects prior to The Wannabes, including The Wog Boy and Acropolis Now. He has also written scripts for Hating Alison Ashley (2005) and Yolngu Boy (2001), both of which were no more successful than The Wannabes at the box office (IMDb, Movie Marshal).
Ray Boseley has only written for other lesser-known television series, although he has previously helped Giannopoulos write for Acropolis Now (IMDb).
David Hirschfelder (Music Composer)
David Hirschfelder is well-known for his involvement in music composition for other films, including Better than Sex (2000), Elizabeth (1998), Shine (1996) and Strictly Ballroom (1992), all of which he has been nominated or has won an award for (IMDb).
Lead Cast Members
According to IMDb, many of the cast members of The Wannabes have had respectable careers. While some actors come from the cast of The Wog Boy (Tony Nikolakopoulos, Costas Kilias), others have had successful roles in other films.
Russell Dykstra (Marcus in The Wannabes) is best known for his role as Bo in Soft Fruit (1999). He has also had appearances in Lantana (2001), Ned Kelly (2003) and Amorality Tale (2005).
Isla Fisher (Kirsty) is better known for her roles in American films Scooby-Doo (2002) and Wedding Crashers (2005), while also having a successful career in the television industry, primarily in the series Home and Away.
Costas Kilias (Adrian) was the lovable Farouk in The Castle (1997).
Chantal Contouri (Sally - Danny's mother) plays a lesser role in The Wannabes, but holds leading roles in Alvin Purple Rides Again (1974), Thirst (1979) and Snapshot (1979), while also starring in the television series Number 96.
Australian Film - Context and Genre
The Wannabes is easily classified as an Australian comedy. Nick Giannopoulos, an Australian comedian, is the motivating force behind this film, and much of his creative abilities are put into the film. Other aspects of the Australianness of the film are quite clear, such as the play on children's group The Wiggles, not to mention a clear shot at Barney the Bear. The setting, the suburbs of Melbourne, and lingo contribute to making the film distinctly Australian. References are made to the Australian entertainment industry, such as the OZcars and the Wannabes's appearance on television show Rove. Also, smaller bits of Australianness include a mention of the ferret as feral to Australia, but the wombat as a native animal.
As a general comedy film, The Wannabes displays a lot of typical comedic elements specific to Australian films. Incongruity - putting things together that do not belong together to elicit a humorous response - is present simply in having a children's group, clad with bright suits and silly songs, performing acts of crime. Some of the criminals turn out to have a softer side as well, such as Stewie (Tony Nikolakopoulos), who becomes a Buddhist and Adrian (Costas Kilias), who ends the film performing a song in drag. Such elements of the film are representative of what Gillard (2007) describes as a characteristic of Australian comedies - 'quirkiness'.
In terms of a specific sub-genre or type of Australian comedy, The Wannabes is hard to classify - it has elements of various sub-genres of comedy, specifically slapstick, satire and caper comedy, as described by Moran and Vieth (2006).
The Wannabes is laden with slapstick and zany comedy, oftentimes relying solely on that aspect to help drive the film. An example is the Wannabes's ridiculous act in front of the children: Danny cannot stop prancing and speaking like a two-year old in order to pitifully try to impress the children, Hammer performs his derogatory rap, Marcus sticks up his middle finger at the kids and Stewie tries to tell a lesbian joke.
Furthermore, the film is clearly a satire of the Australian entertainment industry. Aside from the obvious spoof on the Wiggles and Barney the Bear, The Wannabes seems to poke fun at other aspects of the entertainment industry, such as through the OZcars - an Australian awards show that obviously desires to be American: its name is a clear imitation of the Oscars and its co-host, Bill Gennaro, is distinctly American. During the show, the Wannabes are able to kidnap a person on stage because no one takes the group seriously, even when a gun is pulled out. Also targeted are the stereotypical Asian in Rory Van Dyke - a wild, money-crazed woman who had a funny accent - and the stereotypical American in Bill Gennaro - an arrogant American actor who knows next to nothing about Australia.
The Wannabes also has elements of a caper comedy. Even though the plot is weak, it revolves around criminals who perform both a robbery and a kidnapping. Thus, the film attempts to integrate crime and action with comedy.
Therefore, The Wannabes seems to be an amalgam of various sub-genres of Australian comedy, and could possibly be classified as a slapstick-satirical-caper comedy. However, the elements of satire and caper comedy are clearly outweighed by the amount of blatantly slapstick and zany humour in the film. Not only is the plot weak, it is also convoluted to the point that it becomes of little importance. The caper scenes consist of, at most, ten minutes of the film and the satire, although present, is sparse and light. Thus, The Wannabes should be primarily considered as an Australian slapstick comedy.
Although it does not carry the weight of The Castle, Crocodile Dundee (1986) or even The Wog Boy in terms of importance in Australian comedy film, The Wannabes can still be considered an Australian comedy - even if it is just another forgotten quirky comedy in the vast realm of Australian cinema.
Ellul, Megan 2003, 'Wannabe Crazy Mind', Mx: Citybeat, 19 September 2003: 24.
Gillard, Garry 2007, Ten Types of Australian Film.
International Movie Database (IMDb), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0331072, (Accessed 16/04/07).
Moran, Albert and Vieth, Errol 2006, Film in Australia: An Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Movie Marshal, http://www.moviemarshal.com.au, (Accessed 22/04/07).
Urban, Andrew L. 2003, 'Giannopoulos, Nick - The Wannabes', Urban Cinefile (Online), http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=7927&s=Interviews (Accessed 16/04/07).
Wilshire, Peter 2004, 'The Wannabes: from Wog Boys to Wannabes', Metro Magazine 139, Winter 2004: 42-44.