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My Big Fat Greek Wedding(2002)
A young Greek woman falls in love with a non-Greek and struggles to get her family to accept him while she comes to terms with her heritage and cultural identity.
For more about My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the My Big Fat Greek Wedding Blu-ray release, see My Big Fat Greek Wedding Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on February 19, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Nia Vardalos, Michael Constantine, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Louis Mandylor
Director: Joel Zwick
» See full cast & crew
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Blu-ray Review
Her Big Fat Hit
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, February 19, 2013
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the little film that could. It was made independently for about $5 million by Tom Hanks's Playtone production company, after actress Rita Wilson, a/k/a Mrs. Hanks, saw writer and star Nia Vardalos perform the script as a one-woman show at an obscure Los Angeles venue. When the film opened in April 2002, it played on just over a hundred screens, because neither Playtone nor any of its producing partners could afford (or would fund) a wider release. The distributor was tiny IFC Films. But one year later, the gentle comedy that Vardalos based on the pandemonium that erupted in her extended family when she announced she was marrying a non-Greek had grossed over $240 million. Such is the power of word-of-mouth. But word-of-mouth requires something good to talk about. Vardalos' script ingeniously synthesized two familiar elements in a mix that has never been replicated in quite the same way. One element was the comedy of ethnic family life in America, epitomized by Moonstruck. The other was the traditional romantic comedy in which true love triumphs and the lovers fated for each other live happily ever after, but not before overcoming obstacles that provide opportunities for both warmth and laughter. In recent years, the romantic comedy has become an endangered species, as screenwriters seem to have forgotten how to imagine credible obstacles for a star-crossed couple to overcome. Instead, they resort to cringe-inducing devices like making the man a boor, the woman a bitch, or both partners emotionally immature and unable to commit, all of which has to be resolved by third-act contrivances that aren't remotely convincing. Vardalos, by contrast, gave audiences the story of a grown-up couple deeply in love (though not without the insecurities that beset all persons contemplating marriage). The obstacles came from somewhere that millions of viewers could instantly understand and relate to: their families.
The wedding of the title is that of Toula Portokalos (Nardalos), one of three children of Gus and Maria (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan), a Chicago family that exemplifies the American immigrant dream. Having entered the country with (as he likes to tell it) eight dollars in his pocket, Gus is now the successful owner of Dancing Zorba's restaurant and the de facto head of a huge extended family that includes Maria's sister, Aunt Voula (the brilliant Andrea Martin), who runs a travel agency. Toula's father loves her dearly, but worries that she's thirty and unmarried, while her sister already has a husband and two children. Why can't she wed a nice Greek boy? As Toula explains in an opening voiceover, none has ever asked her. She works in the restaurant, but has other ambitions. With her mother's help, she persuades Gus to send her to community college for computer training and then to lend her out to her aunt to run the travel agency, where she blossoms. It's there that she meets Ian Miller (John Corbett), whom she'd previously seen at Zorba's dining with his friend Mike (Ian Gomez, Vardalos' real husband, whose life Corbett was portraying). They are perfect for each other from the start, except for the obvious problem that Ian isn't Greek. When Toula's cousin Nikki (Gia Carides, all big hair and attitude) informs her that they've been seen by "the family", it's time to get serious. The title leaves no doubt that Toula and Ian are headed toward the altar. The film is about the cultural clashes that occur en route. In the first half, Toula introduces her family, its heritage and its eccentricities to the audience; in the second, viewers get the pleasure of feeling like insiders while newcomers, in the form of Ian's staid parents (Fiona Reid and Bruce Gray) are thrown into the deep end of the same experience. Ian doesn't get off lightly either, as he volunteers to undergo baptism in the Greek Orthodox Church so that Toula's family will accept him as an honorary Greek. Cousin Nikki becomes his godmother and makes the most of the opportunity. Vardalos' script cleverly sets Toula and Ian as the straight men surrounded by comics, and director Joel Zwick, a veteran of TV comedies with quirky premises like Tom Hanks's breakthrough, Bosom Buddies, seems to have an instinctive grasp of just how "big" to push the eccentric behavior without going over the top. He is helped immeasurably by the presence of such seasoned pros as Constantine, Kazan and especially Martin, the SCTV veteran whose inspired improvs often risked ruining takes by cracking up the rest of the cast (but frequently ended up in the film).
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Blu-ray, Video Quality
Cinematographer Jeffrey Jur has had a long and varied career that includes the musical numbers of Dirty Dancing, the hard-boiled realism of The Last Seduction, the stylized artificiality of HBO's Carnivāle and the sun-drenched hyper-reality of Showtime's Dexter. For My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Jur went for an everyday look that's just a touch brighter, like the colors generally favored by the women in Toula's family. Like the personalities, the lighting on the Portokalos family is subtly exaggerated. (In the Miller household, by contrast, there are more shadows.) Judging by HBO's 1080p, AVC-encoded disc, you'd never realize what a low-budget product Greek Wedding really was. Black levels are generally solid, fine detail is well-rendered, and contrast levels are appropriately set. Colors are strong where they should be, without bleeding or oversaturation. A very fine grain pattern is evident on close inspection, and there is no indication of filtering or other inappropriate digital tampering, and no artifacts of any kind. Despite the potential for a "sitcom" look, Jur's careful lighting and HBO's professional preparation of the Blu-ray has ensured a film-like presentation that lets Greek Wedding play like a movie.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Blu-ray, Audio Quality
According to IMDb, Greek Wedding was released in Dolby Surround, which would be consistent with budgetary constraints. Even so, original stems were no doubt preserved, which would be the basis for the 5.1 mix presented on DVD as Dolby Digital 5.1 and now on Blu-ray as DTS-HD MA 5.1. Not surprisingly, given the nature of the film, this is a front-centered mix that emphasizes dialogue. The rear channels provide an expanded sense of presence, but if there were any genuine surround effects, I missed them. The score is by Chris Wilson (Rita Wilson's brother) and cellist Alexander Janko, and it adds an additional ring of Greek authenticity.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The DVD released by HBO in 2005 and included with the Blu-ray contained only a commentary. The Blu-ray adds deleted scenes and a new documentary.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Nothing that Vardalos has done since Greek Wedding, either as writer or lead actress, has been successful, including a short-lived TV adaptation of the film and the Tom Hanks-directed Larry Crowne, which Vardalos co-wrote with Hanks, and which bombed despite the combined star power of Hanks and Julia Roberts. What this shows is not so much that Greek Wedding was a fluke as that success in filmmaking is a rare and difficult thing, as much dependent on luck as talent. A unique confluence of script, director, producers and cast combined to create this sleeper hit, but the release date may also have been critical. In the dark national mood of 2002, a comedy offering both laughter and the hopeful prospects of romance, family reconciliation and the American dream was perfectly timed. That the film holds up is a tribute to its craftsmanship and the durability of its appeal. Highly recommended.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Blu-ray, News and Updates
• My Big Fat Greek Wedding Blu-ray - August 10, 2012
In November, HBO Home Entertainment will bring My Big Fat Greek Wedding to Blu-ray. Director Joel Zwick's hit romantic comedy stars Nia Vardalos (My Life in Ruins) as a Greek woman whose impending marriage to a non-Greek man (Joel Corbett, I Hate Valentine's Day) ...
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