HBO // 2002 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 22nd, 2012
Love is here to stay...so is her family.
"You better get married soon. You're starting to look old!"
Toula Portakalous (Nina Vardalos, My Life in Ruins) is a nice young woman who comes from a very traditional Greek American family. She loves her family very much, but is frustrated by the fact that her conservative father (Michael Constantine, The Hustler) constantly discourages her from pursuing college and a professional career. As far as her family is concerned, a Greek woman's primary goals in life should be to A) marry a nice Greek man and B) have a whole bunch of babies. Toula isn't particularly interested in romance at the moment, but that changes when she meets the affable Ian Miller (John Corbett, United States of Tara). The two quickly fall head-over-heels in love with each other, but Toula knows that things will get messy when her father discovers that Ian isn't Greek.
It's said that every person has at least one novel inside of them, an intensely personal tale built on their life experiences. Perhaps it's also true that every person has at least one film inside of them, too. Most of Jan de Bont's movies are garbage, but Speed is a marvel of action filmmaking. John Singleton's career has been quite disappointing in recent years, but Boyz N the Hood remains a great, fiery effort. Richard Kelly still hasn't recaptured the magic of Donnie Darko. These guys may not have the raw skills required to establish themselves as masters, but they all managed to bring that one special flick into being. The same applies to Nia Vardalos, who has spent the past decade trying (and failing -- as evidence, I direct your attention to such Vardalos-penned efforts as Connie and Carla, I Hate Valentine's Day, Larry Crowne and My Big Fat Greek Life) to capitalize on the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
True, the film was directed by Joel Zwick, but there's no question that it's Vardalos' baby. The film is based on a one-woman play Vardalos had written and starred in, and the material draws a great deal from the actress' own life. It's the story she was meant to tell; a warm and appealing romantic melodrama that managed to strike a chord with audiences despite its complete lack of big-name stars or big-budget polish. It's one of the most remarkable success stories in cinema history: the highest-grossing film to go its entire run without winning the weekend box office. Week after week, month after month, moviegoers kept spreading the word about this charming little comedy until the film had racked up $368 million.
To be sure, My Big Fat Greek Wedding doesn't come close to being a great film. It's actually a fairly conventional romantic comedy that takes no unexpected turns on its way to the inevitable happy ending. The jokes are fairly corny and the characters don't exactly have a great deal of depth. Even so, there's something affectingly genuine about the whole thing, a sense that what we're experiencing is actually someone's personal story and not just another intensely test-marketed rom-com spit out by the Movie-O-Matic. The affectionate ribbing of the exceptionally conservative Portakalous values system is rarely side-splitting stuff, but My Big Fat Greek Wedding is more about generating smiles than hysterical laughter, anyway.
Vardalos handles her central role superbly -- again, it's essentially the part she was born to play. She's got a personality and appearance that fall outside the traditional Kate Hudson/Katherine Heigl/Meg Ryan rom-com mold, which is a large part of what make the film feel refreshing in spite of its reliance on conventional plotting. John Corbett is his typically warm, moderately bland self, but he generates a warm chemistry with Vardalos that always feels convincing. The supporting cast shines across the board, with a host of bit players providing memorable moments despite only getting a handful of lines.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Blu-ray) has received a handsome 1080p/1.78:1 transfer that offers generally strong detail throughout. The movie isn't exactly stunning on a visual level (and there's some excessive noise during darker scenes), but it gets the job done. Blacks are reasonably deep and flesh tones look warm and natural. It's stellar even if there's never a moment where the image really shines. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is perfectly satisfying, though there's very little in terms of immersive sound design. The original score perhaps leans a little too heavily on its playful Greek folk music sound, but it comes through with energy. Dialogue is clean and well-preserved throughout. The pre-existing audio commentary (featuring Vardalos, Corbett and Zwick) has been ported over to this release, but you also get a new half-hour retrospective featuring Vardalos and Corbett and some deleted scenes. It's all too rare that recent catalogue titles are getting new supplements these days, so the additions are a pleasant surprise.
The only cast members who feel thoroughly artificial are Ian's parents, who are excessively caricatured stereotypes of prudish WASPs. They feel like something out of a "white people do things like this" stand-up routine. Sure, the other characters can be a little broad, but everyone else in the film feels real on some level.
I'm pretty sure I can live another ten years (or more) without seeing My Big Fat Greek Wedding again, but it's hard not to be won over by the film's flavorful vibe. Fans of the movie should be pleased with this Blu-ray release.
Review content copyright © 2012 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy