My Big Fat Greek Wedding
|Distributor:||Hbo Home Video|
Toula Portokalos is a quiet, devoted daughter in a big, hectic, crazy Greek family. Working at her father’s restaurant, “Dancing Zorba’s,” she hides behind a mop of mousy brown hair and thick, impenetrable glasses, keeping her family close and the world at a distance. But one day at the restaurant, she finds herself pouring coffee for a man so strikingly good-looking, that he inspires her to change her life—and the way she sees the world—forever. With a new hairdo, wardrobe, contact lenses, and most important of all, a whole new attitude, Toula steps out into the world a new woman, all ready to meet her man. Ian Miller is tall, handsome, but definitely not Greek. And whether he can handle Toula, her parents, her aunts, uncles, cousins and several centuries of Greek culture remains to be seen. But when you see the world through Toula’s eyes, anything is possible!
It’s not surprising that My Big Fat Greek Wedding grew more popular over the course of its theatrical release (whereas most blockbusters open big and then drop precipitously)—not only does it have believable situations and engaging characters, but these characters (particularly our romantic heroine, Toula, played by writer and performer Nia Vardalos) look like actual human beings instead of plastic movie stars. The result is the very accessible tale of Greek-American Toula (whose family sees her as over the hill at 30), who falls for a WASPy guy named Ian (John Corbett) and then has to endure the outrage, doubt, and ultimate acceptance of her deeply ethnically centered family. The actors invest their wildly stereotypical portrayals with sincerity and compassion, giving the movie an honest warmth instead of Hollywood schmaltz. But My Big Fat Greek Wedding ultimately succeeds because of Vardalos; her intelligent, down-to-earth presence and charm carry the film. —Bret Fetzer
Barnes and Noble
Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes the DVD release of this wildly popular romantic comedy, the sleeper hit of 2002. And deservedly so: My Big Fat Greek Wedding falls back on tried-and-true conventions of romantic comedy, but it presents them so winningly as to make viewers think they’re seeing them for the first time. Nia Vardalos, who wrote the semi-autobiographical screenplay, is that most refreshing of leading ladies—one who’s not “conventionally” beautiful but whose warmth and charm makes her more attractive than most of the walking Kewpie dolls regularly paraded across America’s movie screens. She plays Toula, the frumpy daughter of Greek restaurateurs (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan) who constantly chide her about remaining unmarried. A diet, some contact lenses, and new makeup transform Toula into an attractive young woman, and before long she has landed herself a handsome fiancé (John Corbett), who must now run the gauntlet of her eccentric relatives to win acceptance into this close-knit family. Vardalos, coming from a similar background, lards her script with keen but loving observations about Greek-American culture. The characters are broadly sketched but rendered with consummate skill by veteran performers who know how far they can go before lapsing into caricature. Director Joel Zwick (Second Sight) wisely lets his cast have its collective say; his main contribution amounts to getting the story moving quickly enough in the first half so that its momentum in the second becomes self-sustaining. Rich in emotion and illuminated by repeated flashes of character-driven humor, this Wedding is one you’ll be happy to attend—over and over. Vardalos, Zwick, and Corbett supply a joint commentary for the DVD, which also includes cast/crew bios. Ed Hulse
Ask anyone who’s attended one and they’ll tell you: there’s nothing quite as colorful—and emotionally melodramatic—as a Greek wedding. Based on Winnipeg actress-comedian Nia Vardalos’s one-woman show and brought to the screen by Rita Wilson and husband Tom Hanks, the film tells (with some parallels to Moonstruck) the story of a thirtysomething Greek spinster for whom falling in love with a “Xeno” (non-Greek) is surely the easiest part of a wedding that more than lives up to its billing. The film’s soundtrack perfectly captures those swirling clouds of…