It's no big secret that film reviewers often get to see movies at special preview screenings, usually held in small screening theatrettes that hold maybe twenty or thirty people at most. Makers of local comedies often complain that a small audience of film critics isn't exactly the best-way to see a mainstream crowd-pleasing comedy. So I'm here to say that I saw The Wannabes the way just about everyone else can: at a crowded lunchtime screening during the school holidays. And it still wasn't funny. To be fair, there were only two walkouts, but the film's biggest laugh was when a character was accidentally hit in the groin - and they're giving that stuff away for free on Australia's Funniest Home Videos. The laugh-free zone begins with eight year-old Danny being scarred for life after getting a massive thumbs down on Rising Stars 78. He then grows up into the movie's writer / director / producer Nick Giannopoulos, a so-so dance instructor who gets hired by a collection of very dodgy types including Marcus (Russell Dykstra), Hammer (Ryan Johnson) and Stewie (Tony Nikolalopoulos) to turn them into a Wiggles-style children's group for an upcoming fancy kid's party. Danny says no - until he sees Marcus' cute sister Kirsty (Isla Fisher). It fairly quickly turns out that the guys don't want to entertain kids at all: it's just a front so they can rob the mansion where the party's at. Then things go wrong - and yet somehow right, as their group (called The Wannabes) turns their clumsy and crude antics into a smash hit. But their criminal past isn't done with them yet... Okay, so it's not funny - and that's not funny AT ALL not funny - and the acting is more wooden than a pine plantation, and the characters don't really make a lot of sense, and Giannopoulos gives himself the only character with even two dimensions without realising that a condescending idiot doesn't really work as a sympathetic lead, and the plot manages to be way more complicated than a movie about crude kid's entertainers needs to be, but... well, that's pretty much it. But let's end on a positive note: at least The Wannabes isn't amazingly, mind-numbingly, teeth-grindly boring.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #308)