Blessed with a golden tenor voice, young African-American orphan Anton (Casseus) is doubly special: Not only can he belt out “Vesti La Giubba” as if the Three Tenors should’ve been a quartet, but he’s also one of the least believable, most saccharine images of mental retardation ever put on film. Starry-eyed and goofily gullible, Anton gumps his way through the titular working-class hood, finding solace by donning a tuxedo to parrot opera records in his bedroom. Once his overprotective aunt nervously forbids his passion, the mini-Pavarotti runs away; a lowlife hustler (Wayans) and an embittered street pianist (Camargo) then lock horns for financial control of this newly homeless kid’s live-or-Memorex talents.
More than a decade after premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, writer-director William Jennings’s inanely convoluted, wanna-be urban fable now looks like a straight-to-video knockoff of The Soloist. Every emotional note is as phony as Casseus’s singing—which was overdubbed by a ringer—while Wayans’s broadly comedic overacting is deathly distracting. Worse, it’s impossible to believe these three clashing personalities would put up with one another for whatever loose change they could split as Washington Square Park buskers. You’re better off giving your money to a real street performer.