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"MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING"
95 minutes | Rated: PG
Limited: Friday, April 19, 2002
Wider: Friday, June 7, 2002
Expanding throughout summer 2002
Directed by Joel Zwick
Starring Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Joey Fatone, Gia Carides, Fiona Reid, Bruce Gray
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 10%
WIDESCREEN: NOT NECESSARY
Totally enjoyable on the small screen -- although perhaps not as laugh-out-loud funny.
VIDEO RELEASE: 02.11.2003
Affectionate cultural ribbing is the cornerstone of predictable but pleasing ugly duckling romantic comedy
Sometimes a movie's success stems more from spirit, charm and perseverance than from any originality or artistry involved in its creation. The unabashedly confectionery ethnic comedy-romance "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is a shining example of just that phenomenon.
Of the same feel-good disposition as the Aussie sleeper hit "Strictly Ballroom," it's a low-budget, ugly duckling fairytale that is predictable and brimming with clichés -- but so earnest, funny and joyful that it's a complete delight all the same.
Adapted by Nia Vardalos from her own one-woman stage show, the movie also features Vardalos in the starring role as 30-ish Toula Portokalos, a frumpy, lovelorn waitress in her father's Greek restaurant. A shy girl who's fed up with her huge family's amusingly, exasperatingly intrusive hounding about finding a husband, she seeks self-empowerment by enrolling in community college computer classes, getting a make-over and taking new job at a relative's travel agency. In the process Toula discovers her assertive, flirtatious side -- just in time to meet Mr. Right.
Ian Miller (John Corbett from "Sex and the City") is one of those soft-spoken fantasy men who always says exactly the right thing, even to his future in-laws. Unfortunately for Toula, he ain't Greek, and that's just doesn't sit well with the Portokalos clan -- especially her irritable old-country father (Michael Constantine).
Vardalos's script doesn't have much of a story arch -- Ian passes his culture-clash trial by fire with flying colors -- and director Joel Zwick's filmmaking is elementary. But every frame of "Greek Wedding" is infused with the contagious, zesty essence of Vardalos's comedic gusto.
No stone goes unturned when it comes to affectionate cultural ribbing, from the gaudy, Parthenon-inspired architecture of the Portokalos suburban home to the contrast of Ian's bloodless, WASPy parents to Toula's sardonic narration. "When I was growing up, I knew I was different," she says during a childhood flashback. "The other girls were blonde and delicate, and I was a swarthy 6-year-old with sideburns."
The comedy focus later turns to the extravagances of and preparations for a Greek wedding (of course) with equally witty results. While the laughs are often obvious -- many are familiar from other self-parodying films about immigrant families -- Vardalos's affection and enthusiasm for that which she caricatures comes shining through, making "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" a lightweight crowd-pleaser that only a grump couldn't enjoy.