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.
Run time: 95 mins
In Theaters: Friday 2nd August 2002
Box Office USA: $241.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $368.7M
Distributed by: IFC Films
Production compaines: MPH Entertainment, Gold Circle Films, Playtone Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 98 Rotten: 31
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Joel Zwick
Starring: Nia Vardalos as Toula, John Corbett as Ian Miller, Lainie Kazan as Maria Portokalos, Michael Constantine as Gus Portokalos, Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula, Joey Fatone as Angelo, Louis Mandylor as Nick Portokalos, Gia Carides as Cousin Nikki, Christina Eleusiniotis as Toula as child, Marita Zouravlioff as Toula Teenager, Gerry Mendicino as Uncle Taki, Bess Meisler as Yiayia, Jayne Eastwood as Mrs. White, Fiona Reid as Harriet Miller, Bruce Gray as Rodney Miller, Frank Falcone as Suitor
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