DVD Review: Criminal Ways (2003)

Available on DVD 10/27

Original Title: The Wannabes

Have you ever wondered just what exactly has come of some of the adorable yet artistically challenged children thrust into the spotlight by fame seeking parents?

In screenwriter/director/star Nick Giannopoulos' 2003 bizarre satire The Wannabes, releasing on DVD this week from Magnolia and Barnholtz Entertainment with the equally forgettable new title Criminal Ways, we're presented with an over-the-top example of where talentless child wannabe stars could go when the dream has died.

Grating on the nerves yet allegedly playing for laughs, Giannopoulos' film acknowledges the old adage that “those who can't do, teach,” as the filmmaker's foolishly ambitious main character Danny teaches routines from the '70s hit Grease to a roomful of senior citizens in his mother's studio.

Yet, aside from his inability to capitalize on the years of lessons he took in artistic areas including acting, singing, dancing and even dressmaking, he remains obsessively bitter about being kicked off the stage of an Aussie like Gong Show when he was a youth performing the same music and choreography he now uses as an adult.

Since Danny isn't the easiest character with whom to sympathize, as soon as a quartet of four intimidating men offer Danny five grand to help fulfill their dream of becoming "the greatest kids' act the world's ever seen," by "rolling" together The Wiggles and Barney, we know something is rotten down under.

And sure enough, audiences quickly uncover that the four men who immediately resembled background actors in a Guy Richie movie are indeed criminals using the children's gig as a cover to snag a diamond necklace worth three million from one of the richest men in their area.

Despite the clever premise that takes a Small Time Crooks turn when the robbery fails yet their group aptly named The Wannabes becomes Australia's bestselling and naughty version of The Wiggles, Giannopoulos' screenplay doesn't know where to go for the remainder of the running time.

Nowhere near as enjoyable as the similarly themed and plotted works Lucky Break, Happy, Texas and Safe Men, Criminal Ways becomes a far more peculiar film to pinpoint as it continues with its awkward blend of raunchy adult humor that makes the Death to Smoochy style set-up involving children's entertainment seem like a poorly planned endeavor all around.

While she's given very little to do, Criminal Ways-- complete with the new, illogical tagline of "She'll Steal Your Heart"-- is no doubt making its six year journey to DVD due to the natural beauty and charm of Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic and Definitely, Maybe star Isla Fisher. Playing Kristy, the sister of the criminal head Marcus, Fisher's main job (both in the film and perhaps for the film) is to serve as the gorgeous bait that the group uses to keep Danny from walking out and likewise to try to lure audiences into thinking this will turn into a sharp romantic comedy.

Isla Fisher

Instead, as the movie continues and Kristy is at one point actually referred to as "the love interest" around the same time another individual uses the phrase "third act conflict," the amateur screenplay can't hide behind cute gimmicks or false teases any longer.

Moving unevenly from the dark charm of a satire in the spirit of Everybody's Famous or American Dreamz with a tawdry British bedroom farce cropping up near the end combined with clumsy caper Pink Panther like comedy, the obviously clunky plot-points and forced dialogue try to forge some semblance of a satisfying conclusion for audiences running the gamut in all of those genres.

Despite cheery cinematography and an ambitious premise, the movie which is filled with awkward collisions and half-baked subplots is one
that is sadly-- like the main character on the game show that opens the work-- sure to get "gonged" long before the 92 minutes are up.

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