Australian comedy movies are like a busted watch: annoying and not even remotely funny, but if you time it just right you can suck a lot of people in with one. And no-one’s going to deny that the original Wog Boy timed it just right: after well over a decade of touring various “Wog” shows around the country (starting with Wogs out of Work in the late 1980s), Nick Giannopoulos had both primed the audience for his big screen version and road-tested the gags to a point where they couldn’t fail. Well, unless you expected them to be funny, but that wasn’t the point: this was comedy of recognition on a massive scale –“ha ha, wogs / skips / whoever are EXACTLY like that!” for ninety minutes – and Nick knew his market like the back of his woggy hand.
So the first Wog Boy made an absolute fortune, at least in local terms. Then came Nick G ‘s traditional follow-up dud The Wannabes, a film so crass, crap, boring and unpleasant a nation stood as one and, well, didn’t so much walk out of the cinema as avoid it altogether. For the unfortunate few who did see this, one thing was clear: finally we had our big-screen equivalent to Daryl Somers. They’re both natural entertainers with a rock-solid desire to win people over, and yet it’s impossible to shake the feeling that you wouldn’t want to cross them in any way. Plenty of comedians can give off the impression of being prickly: like Daryl, Nick G gives off the impression that there’s nothing behind his slick façade but a ruthless desire to succeed at all costs. Which might be great for a businessman, but isn’t really all that funny.
Nick G’s been quoted as saying Kings of Mykonos: Wog Boy 2 was originally going to be a stand-alone story, but then he decided this particular plot was a good way to bring back the original Wog Boy characters. Bad move for the film (as will be explained later), but a smart move publicity-wise. If this was a stand-alone movie it’d be fair to say it’s a massive and unwelcome return to the bad old days of Australian movie comedy, a film you laugh at more than with, a film that plays its jokes so broad it’s a wonder they fit even on a widescreen – in short, a film where, when one of the leads finally get the girl (though all he does is save her from drowning but here that’s as good a reason to pash as any), the donkey he was riding looks at the camera and winks.
But as a sequel to the original Wog Boy, well… it’s pretty much just more of the same. After all, it’s not like it’s possible to disgrace the proud legacy of the original, right? Even if it was, Nick G already managed that with the excreteable Wannabes. And let’s be honest: while Australian cinema occasionally manages to come up with a film that’s both funny and has wide appeal, you’re just as likely to hit it big with cinema audiences by serving up a steaming pile of Yahoo Serious press clippings. Much as it’d be nice to point out the numerous smart, witty big screen comedies that have turned out to be box office hits, the sad fact is that more often than not it’s moronic crap than wins the day.
This particular piece of moronic crap takes the two hold-overs from the first film – car-crazy Steve “Wog Boy” Karamitsis (Giannopoulos, who’s performance consists largely of pulling a squinty face) and girl-crazy Frank (Vince Colosimo) – out of Melbourne’s western suburbs and off to the Greek party island of Mykonos, where Steve may or may not have inherited a beach. While Frank starts out trying to break the Mykonos record of sleeping with 43 chicks in a month but ends up focussing on just one, Steve has to decide whether to sell to the sleazy property developer Mihali (Alex Dimitriades) or try to make a go of things himself against all the odds. Oh, and there’s a subplot about goat shit.
Pretty much the only interesting thing about this film – which is exactly what you would expect on every single level and so basically review-proof – is that back around the time of The Wannabes, Nick G was popping up in every newspaper and magazine that would have him saying “Australians want Australian stories”. He didn’t go so far as to suggest attending local films should be made compulsory, but he did seem to feel that a): Australia films were being too harshly judged by both critics and audiences, and b): people should support Australian stories simply because they were Australian.
So what does he go and make? A movie where, apart from the first five minutes, the action is set entirely on a Greek island and the story revolves around defending the island’s small businesses from an evil property developer. And this is an Australian story how?
You could argue that the subtext is about second-generation migrants returning to their homeland, but subtext? In a Wog Boy movie? Anyway, a few jokes about “Greek-a-nomics” aside, Steve’s story has nothing to do with a culture clash between his Aussie values and the culture of his forefathers. And Frank is Italian so it’s not even his family’s culture he’s returning to. No doubt Nick G’s out there talking up how we should support his film as a local product. But by dragging back characters from his only successful film and dropping them in a story set overseas (and largely funded with overseas money) that has nothing to do with them, he’s not only diluted whatever goodwill those characters might have retained, he’s made it obviously clear that as far as he’s concerned by “Australian stories” he means “me”.
You can’t have it both ways: either “Australians want Australian stories”, or you want to play with the big boys from overseas. If you want people to support you simply because you’re from around here, you’d better make films that only someone from around here would make. Loathsome they may be, but at least stars like Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett aren’t out there claiming that Robin Hood is an “Australian story” simply because they’re in it. Still, at least in one way the original Wog Boy hasn’t let Australia down: by making a crap sequel to a popular comedy, Nick Giannopoulos has proved he’s Aussie as.
I don’t have exact figures to hand, but The Kings of Mykonos has raked in at least $2 million since it opened. Successful comedies often have a long run at the cinema as word-of-mouth kicks in: If this keeps up – or even tapers off gently – it’ll be the biggest comedy hit since Kenny.