HBO // 2002 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 5th, 2003
Love is here to stay...and so is her family.
If you look up the phrase "sleeper hit" in the dictionary, you might just find a picture of My Big Fat Greek Wedding right next to it. What started out as a low-budget comedy became one of the biggest movie sensations of 2002. It seemed as if there was no escaping the film's appeal. Suddenly and without warning, it was as if everyone on the planet Earth had seen this flick, and if you were one of the dozen who hadn't seen it...well, it was altogether possible you were borderline retarded. After a theatrical run that is still going as I type this review, My Big Fat Greek Wedding makes its DVD debut care of HBO Home Video.
Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) is an unmarried thirty year old woman. Normally this wouldn't be such a big deal except for the fact that Toula's GREEK. You see, in Toula's family, young Greek women get married to Greek guys, then settle down as Greek housewives and make Greek babies. Toula works at her Chicago family's Greek restaurant, which is owned by Toula's overbearing, old world father (Michael Constantine, Thinner) and chatty mother Maria (Lainie Kazan, The Cemetery Club). She also lives with her family in a suburban house that looks like the Greek god's Zeus' vacation getaway, complete with columns and statues in the yard. While working as a seating hostess, Toula runs into Ian (John Corbett, TV's Sex & The City), a handsome teacher who catches her fancy. Alas, Toula is too dour and shy to make any kind of advancement toward the semi-hunk. Fortunately, this isn't the case after Toula quits working for her parents, goes to college, emerges as an attractive woman, and starts a new job working for her Greek aunt at a Greek travel agency. After a chance encounter at her workplace, Toula and Ian begin a whirlwind romance that leads to the altar...and that's when the complications arise. First up Ian isn't Greek, which infuriates Toula's bombastic father. Second, Ian and his family must meet Toula's family, which includes every kook under the sun -- wacky cousins (including boy band member Joey Fatone), a feisty grandmother, nosey aunts, and an assortment of other ethnic oddities. As the wedding day fast approaches, Toula will find out that with love comes frustration...in the form of her big fat Greek family.
I will now share my shameful secret with the world: I was one of the few people who didn't see My Big Fat Greek Wedding when it was playing in the theaters. Everyone and their mothers told me to go see it. Even their mother's mothers urged me on. I had friends who'd watched it almost six times. Like herpes on a porn set, the film was inescapable -- everywhere you went, everyone had seen the film.
So, after all this time -- all this hype -- I was finally able to find out if My Big Fat Greek Wedding lived up to its reputation. And the answer was...
(Drum roll, please)
No. It was okay. I mean, let's face it, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is pretty good, but not great. The film plays like an extended sitcom with memorable -- if stock -- characters and personalities. I did laugh quit a few times, though they were more chuckles than large belly busters. I'm a bit perplexed by why this movie made so much money at the box office. I can understand it playing well to a specific crowd -- the PG rating ensures that slightly conservative moviegoers and their kids will go. But to go on and make over $200 million dollars?!? Yowza! I thought it was a cute, predictable comedy that was short on originality but longer on laughs than most Adam Sandler comedies.
The film was written by and stars Nia Vardalos, and she does have an ear for funny dialogue. There's a great scene where her mother is scolding her as a child to eat her food, urging her with "When I was a kid we didn't have food." Lines like this made My Big Fat Greek Wedding well worth my time. The characters, while sometimes one-dimensional, are often very amusing. Michael Constantine as Toula's father is both endearing and funny with his basset hound face and jaded accent. How can you not like a character who thinks Windex is the solution to every ailment on earth? The supporting cast is also genial and humorous, from Joey Fatone (!) as a loud, obnoxious cousin to some old lady actress as Toula's abrasive, unhappy grandmother (I guess if I'd been plucked out of my homeland and dropped in chilly Chicago, I'd be rather peeved as well). Vardalos and John Corbett as the romantic leads are cute and cuddly, just as they should be for a film like this. I did like the way the story was somewhat grounded in real life when it came to everyone's looks and appearances -- both Vardalos and Corbett are good looking people, but not movie star quality. This ends up endearing the audience to their characters, allowing us to relate with Toula's rather frustrating family.
Though I didn't think the film was the romantic comedy to end all romantic comedies, I can see why folks enjoyed it. The performances are winning and the humor warm and fuzzy. As a bonus I was thrilled that *N Sync member Joey Fatone didn't grate quite as hard as he did in the bomb On The Line. Praise be to the Maker above. For you die hard fans out there they'll be a new show based on the film coming to network television. I can see the episodes now: "My Big Fat Greek First Period," "A Very Special Big Fat Greek Episode," "My Big Fat Greek Christmas Episode..." As for the movie, it's worth a rental and goes best with leg of lamb.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Seeing as this is a new film, it wasn't surprising to see the transfer is excellent shape. Even though this was a low-budget movie, the picture appears to be in good shape with solid colors and black levels throughout. The only flaws I spotted included a few instances of edge enhancement and some grain in the image. Otherwise, this is a very acceptable print that should please all 248 gazillion fans.
The soundtrack is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, both in English. Though there are subtle differences (including rain effects, music, etcetera), either of these sound mixes will do the trick. Also included on this disc are English, French, Spanish, and (of course) Greek subtitles.
For such a big hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding certainly wasn't given a very exciting DVD release. Fans will surely hope for a supplementally packed edition in the near future. Until that shining day comes, we're stuck with this under-whelming first edition DVD. The only true extra feature on this disc is a commentary track by Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, and director Joel Zwick. This is a very well recorded, low-key commentary that includes a generous amount of production information and stories about the shoot. Vardalos also goes into detail about how they inadvertently advertised the film (there was little money for advertising, so word of mouth is what made the movie a hit).
Also included on this disc are a few cast biographies on the major players in the film.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a cute comedy that will be liked by many. Though I didn't think it was as good as everyone made it out to be, it wasn't a bad way to spend a Friday night. HBO's work on this disc is good, but could have been a lot better, especially in the way of extra features.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is free to honeymoon with viewers in Tahiti! O-pa!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Commentary Track by Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, and director Joel Zwick
* Cast Biographies