Title: My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Year of Release: 2002
Date Viewed: July 5th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG
When I first heard the title of this film, I was expecting the story to be about a wedding that had an abnormally large dinner buffet at the afterparty. To my relief, the movie is much more intelligent than that idea could ever have been.
Whether we deny it or embrace it, every family is weird in their own way. The family depicted in My Big Fat Greek Wedding is wacky enough to cause any person related to them to be wary of leaving the house.
The story centers on the family's ugly duckling, Toula Portokalos (actress and writer Nia Vardalos). During the opening credits sequence, Toula narrates her life growing up in the Portokalos home where traditions, meals and conversations were different than anywhere else she knew. Her father Gus (Michael Constantine) constantly embarrasses her with his Greek superiority complex. He loves to show off his knowledge of the Greek thesaurus and believes Windex has the magic power to cure any flaw that exists in the universe.
Toula is the only offspring of Gus' family that has not yet married or given birth. Despaired with her haggard appearance and family pressures, Toula wishes she could get out of this Greek nightmare and have a chance at a more "normal" life. The first sign of change takes place when non-Greek high school teacher Ian Miller (John Corbett) walks into the Portokalos owned restaurant and into Toula's life. After a bad first impression, Toula gets inspired to break away a little from her family's traditions and attend college. While there, she acquires computer education and an appearance makeover. As luck would have it, Toula gets another chance to flirt with Ian after the latter spots the former working at her Aunt's travel agency. Their eyes cannot stay away from each other and by the time the first real conversation starts, Ian and Toula realize that they are destined to be together.
Only one problem. Gus wants Toula to marry someone of Greek heritage to keep their family traditions intact for the future. Toula is skeptical that she can marry Ian without her family's shadow lurking over her. But Ian is determined to win over the Portokalos family by any means necessary, even if it requires him to receive a Greek baptism.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is packed with one-liners that you are certain to find yourself quoting the next day although they can never be delivered as well as the cast do them. Conversations like "Can I please date your daughter?" No!" are not funny when you read them on paper. But when you hear Constantine speak the reply in that comically distressed voice of his, it is hilarious. All the characters are perfectly cast. I have no idea how many of them are actually Greek but you could fool me into thinking that none of them were even required to act their part.
The story is nearly perfectly paced and offers plenty of gags for fans of fish-out-of-water comedies. At one point, Ian undergoes a baptism ceremony at the Portokalos' church as an attempt to win his soul some Greek credibility. Toula (clearly embarrassed for him) turns to her brother and says "Any second now he's gonna look at me and go, "Ha. Yeah right. You're so not worth this."" She must be worth it because the baptism is just the start of the wedding preparations. He still has to undergo lessons in Greek dialect (a favorite prank opportunity for Toula's brothers) and getting his parents through a Portokalos family party without suffering too much of the alcoholic effects of ouzo.
Even though the Portokalos' are a family of antagonists, it's impossible not to like them because they care so much for Toula's well-being and have no earthly clue how unorthodox their traditions seem to the rest of the world. That's where the majority of the movie's humor derives from and its executed great.
If there is anything negative to say about the movie, it's that some of the punchlines lose their luster after hearing them more than once. The movie is watched at my family's household usually on a yearly basis and it makes us laugh every time but it never beats our first viewing at the multiplex when most of the audience walked in not knowing what to expect and ended up smiling the rest of the day.
If my understanding is correct, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the most financially successful independent film of all time. A title well deserved in my book. It's a great example of what positive word-of-mouth can do for you. Comedies need inspiration to work. By that line of reasoning, you could say that My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one of the most inspired comedies to come out of this decade.