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My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

by on 2013/04/21

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

“You’ve got a weird family. Who doesn’t?”

* * *

What can I say about My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Not much. In its heyday it was the feature equivalent of “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, as widely popular as it later got over-familiar, then tiring. Most people probably already know how they feel about this piece.

A part of me suspects it would be the “hip” thing just to bash it, but I won’t . . . not because it’s Canadian, but because it’s still not without its charms.

Set in Chicago, and shot in parts of its “sister city” Toronto, the wedding in question is that between Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) and Ian Miller (John Corbett). Her initial thirtysomething frumpiness quickly gives way to lippy rebellion when she challenges her fanatically Greek family by falling in love with a WASP.

I actually absorbed very little of the ceremony or its preparations. It was less reminiscent of Betsy’s Wedding or Father of the Bride, and more about culture clashing routines on the way to a foregone conclusion. It never wanted for entertainment, yet lacked in a sense of building momentum.

Further, when I say “entertainment” I don’t necessarily mean “comedy”. Although it’s sold as a funny feel-good chick flick, I was quite surprised at how steeped in overt pathos and angst it was. If anything, it’s far more “rom” than “com”. Both stars come across as likable, they share a good chemistry, and keep us invested throughout. My only reservations came with clunking cliches like “I came alive when I met you.”

The funniest moments fly by early on, with the couple’s slapstick flirtation, and the covert manipulation of their men by ostensibly submissive Greek women. Plus, look for those rare malapropism moments by an actor named Andrea Martin. Keep an eye on this one, kids, she’s sure to be a big deal some day.

Occasionally the humour works (watch Toula stagger after a date), occasionally it’s borderline weird (the family’s joking threats against Ian), and it’s all tied together with nonstop product placement for Windex (nearly every other scene).

The most bewildering things of all are contained in the title itself. I assume the “Big Fat” part refers to the wedding itself somehow because – regardless how drab she tries to appear – there is no universe in which Vardalos counts as obese. Second is the assumption Greek culture is strange or hilarious. Call me a politically correct, big city boy but that conceit doesn’t seem as successful as the fact that most of the interest arises from basic human foibles and inter-generational conflict.

In short, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a confection, pure and simple: light, sweet, brief, and not very filling, if at all.

And, no, I don’t have a baklava joke, make your own.

* * *

Rated PG

95 minutes

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