The Greeks Have a Word for It
Take one part Cinderella, mix in a bit of Romeo and Juliet, add a large helping of Zorba, and what do you get? My Big Fat Greek Wedding Ė the most unusual romantic comedy so far this year. Highlighting warm characters, witty dialogue, family values, and the importance of cultural heritage, it's a film of pure delight from beginning to end.
Based on a one-woman play by Nia Vardalos, this movie feels completely authentic, and I wouldnít be surprised if itís filled with incidents from the authorís real life. Vardalos also stars as Toula Portokalos, a plain waitress in her familyís Greek restaurant. After spotting handsome teacher Ian Miller (John Corbett) at one of the tables, Toula starts paying attention to her appearance and her future goals. The latter isnít easy, since all her father (Michael Constantine) and mother (Lainie Kazan) want her to do is marry a nice Greek man and have his babies.
When Ian and Toula meet again, they canít deny their attraction for each other in spite of deep cultural differences. Their decision to marry results in painful interactions with both families. Painful for them, that is, but hilarious for viewers. Ianís parents are uptight WASP types, while Toulaís large family revels in loud verbal exchanges and noisy get-togethers. Stereotypes? Maybe, but these people come across as so loveable, I didnít mind at all.
With numerous amusing incidents occurring throughout the movie, itís difficult to pick out the best ones to mention without spoiling the film for those who havenít seen it yet. Because Iím a vegetarian like the leading man in this story, I laughed the most at Toulaís aunt (Andrea Martin) who says, after finding out about Ianís vegetarianism, "You donít eat meat? Itís okay. Iíll fix lamb!"
I also got a big kick out of the wedding disasters Ė including incorrect information on invitations, a zit on the brideís face, the atrocious bridesmaid dresses, and Toulaís "snow monster" gown. No matter what your ethnic background, if youíve been part of a big formal wedding, youíll probably love watching this part of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
A strong cast adds to the quality of this entertaining film. Constantine (The Juror) stands out as a man so proud of his heritage he can find the Greek root in any word presented to him. Kazan (The Crew) makes a good partner for him. Sheís every bit an "earth mother" who lets her husband think heís boss. "The husband is the head of the family, but the wife is the neck and can move the head any way she wants," her character tells Toula.
Vardalos (Meet Prince Charming) and Corbett (Serendipity) create a sweet chemistry together. Vardalos seems to be living the part, not just acting Ė and thatís perfect for her unique movie. Corbett projects great sensitivity and humor as a man bored with dating women who "all look alike." Heís certainly come a long way since his "Northern Exposure" television days. Even then, Corbettís good looks and soothing voice hinted at his leading man potential.
At the end of the movie, thereís a credit listing Rita Wilson and hubbie Tom Hanks as "producers." After Wilson saw Vardalosí play, she recommended it to Hanks. Thanks, Rita!
(Released by IFC Films and rated "PG" for sensuality and language.)