Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) is the plain, 30-year-old single daughter of Greek immigrants who expect her to "marry a Greek boy, make Greek babies and feed everyone until the day we die," to make the family proud. Toula wants more for herself and just when she's wishing she were braver, or prettier, she locks eyes on a tall handsome stranger in the family restaurant and freezes.
Ready for a change and against the wishes of her traditionalist father, she enrolls in a computer course at college and gains the self-confidence to change not only her appearance but her whole attitude. Her change attracts the attention of her crush, Ian Miller (John Corbett), who woos Toula despite her anxieties and her family's shocked opposition - after all, he's not Greek! Ian's marriage proposal throws the family into chaos and Toula wonders if she will ever survive the planning of her big, fat Greek wedding.
Taking inspiration from her own family, Nia Vardalos spins an amusing and heartwarming comedic yarn in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' about the time she dated and eventually married her real-life husband Ian Gomez. In the movie, he's renamed Ian Miller and played by the dashingly handsome John Corbett, who looks absolutely nothing like the balding, frumpy Gomez. Gomez does, however, appear throughout as Corbett's friend and co-worker. Vardalos, on the other hand, stars as herself, or at least, a fictionalized version of herself, a woman who goes through a complete overhaul at the same time she meets the love of her life.
Romantic-comedy devices and clichés are definitely in play, but used somewhat sparingly and with a light touch. In a film where the title explicitly gives away the ending, there's really no point in spending too much time on the usual "boy meets girl" angle and go through the typical "will they or won't they" motions.
Instead, the process is sped up during a very funny sequence that sees Vardalos's Toula working at her family's travel agency. Corbett's Ian tries to impress with a duck walk in front of the window and ends up provoking the wrath of a little old lady while Toula is slammed to the floor by her phone's headset. The two quickly hit it off, start dating and are engaged before we're even certain they are a match made in heaven. Thankfully, the passionate chemistry between the actors is quite convincing and is more than enough to make up for the spirited pace of the narrative.
Along with that, we get a good balance of slapstick humor and cultural jabs, along with uplifting notions of love and family. In fact, it's interesting to observe the ease with which audiences can enjoy the expedited feel of the film without really missing a beat, which is to the credit of Vardalos' writing. The plot grew from Vardalos' stage performance discovered by Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman — the trio that eventually produced this rousing comedy.
At the core we have a young woman coming to terms with her heritage and culture. In learning to love a "xeno" (a foreigner) as Toula's dad calls Ian, Toula discovers that she must also love her background as an extension of who she is and where she comes from.
We first meet a drab, fashion-victim Toula as awkward and self-conscious of her family's eccentricity, from her patriotic father's (Michael Constantine) cure-all Windex remedy to her grandmother's attempts to escape her imaginary Turkish captivity. When Ian enters the picture having lunch with Mike (Gomez) at Toula's family restaurant, a spark of inspiration emboldens her to update her fashion sense and enroll in computers classes at community college. Their second meeting is the fortuitous love-at-first-sight catalyst which quickly evolves and is just as soon discovered by the family, forcing Toula to confront the difficult unpleasantness of breaking with tradition while also learning to find comfort in it.
What follows is a series of culture clash episodes, particularly when meeting Ian's parents (Bruce Gray and Fiona Reid) who can't seem to tell the difference between Greek, Armenian, and Guatemalan. Toula's younger brother Nick (Louis Mandylor) and Cousin Angelo (Joey Fatone) take advantage of the language barrier and have fun with Ian. Cousin Nikki (Gia Carides) and Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) are a lively, spirited and outspoken daughter and mother pair, with Voula earning extra points as one of the more memorable of the cast. Toula's mother Maria (Lainie Kazan) is another winning character full of funny wisdom, and her dad Gus (Constantine) is a charming riot as the wounded patriarch.
Admittedly, the film directed by Joel Zwick, who's career is largely found in a variety of television sitcoms, does feel more like a situational comedy squeezed into 95 minutes of wedding preparation, but it's easily overlooked when the laughs are this good and sincere. Dealing with the quirky, oddball behavior of one's family and learning to accept them has never been this fun and heartwarming.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
HBO Home Entertainment brings 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' to Blu-ray as a two-disc 10th Anniversary Special Edition, one which appears to only be available as a Blu-ray combo pack. The first is a Region A locked, BD50 disc sitting comfortably opposite a DVD-9 copy of the movie. There's also a flyer with a code to download a digital copy as well. Both arrive inside a blue eco-lite case with an embossed, glossy slipcover.
'Greek Wedding' celebrates ten years with a pleasing but not wholly satisfying AVC-encoded transfer. There's nothing inherently wrong with the presentation, as it maintains a consistent quality from beginning to end, but on the whole, the video falls on the softer side and rarely ever impresses. Fine lines are stable and fairly detailed, with a few great moments of distinct clarity and revealing texture on the faces of actors, yet it never really shines or feels like we're watching high-definition. This minor quibble could be excused as a fault of the source, the film's low-budget origins or the cinematography, but whatever it is doesn't translate particularly well to the format or could be the result of an older master. Otherwise, there's little fault with the video presentation.
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the picture does come with strong blacks and excellent shadows details. An ultra-fine grain structure washes over the image, giving it a nice film-like quality. Contrast is even and balanced with clean, crisp whites, but the overall presentation feels a tad flat and on the lower end of the grayscale. Colors, however, are accurately rendered with attractive, bold primaries and natural flesh tones. The wedding doesn't excite, but it's passable.
Being a low-budget romcom, it's none too surprising the audio doesn't excel in any meaningful way. The focus and action is always kept in the fronts, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Only, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack feels a little narrow and restrained in the center for a majority of the time. Of course, dialogue reproduction is clean and distinct throughout, which means the lossless mix does its job aptly and without issue.
On a more positive note, the music of Alexander Janko and Chris Wilson breathes some much needed life into the design, filling the other two speakers and broadening the soundstage. There's isn't a whole lot going on in means of dynamics and acoustics, but the mid-range is stable and even, generating some decent front imaging. Low bass is understandably light, but there's enough low-end to provide the music depth and the mix a good sense of presence.
In the end, the high-rez track for 'Greek Wedding' is nothing special, but it gets the job done in good, satisfying fashion.
The surprise sleeper hit of 2002, 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' is a hilarious and heartwarming tale about finding love, family and culture clashes. Written by the film's star Nia Verdalos and produced by Tom Hanks, the comedy grew into a massive box-office smash that still delivers that laughs ten years later. The Blu-ray isn't much of looker in high-def, but it's a pleasing presentation with lossless audio that gets the job done. Supplements are thin, but mostly exclusive to this package, which will leave fans generally satisfied. Worth a look.