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HBO presents
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

"We're all different. But in the end, we're all food."
- Toula (Nia Vardalos)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: February 10, 2003

Stars: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett
Other Stars: Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine, Gia Carides, Louis Mandylor, Andrea Matin, Joey Fatone
Director: Joel Zwick

Manufacturer: Wamo
MPAA Rating: PG for sensuality and language
Run Time: 01h:34m:49s
Release Date: February 11, 2003
UPC: 026359199325
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B A-BB+ B

DVD Review

Toula (Nia Vardalos) has decided at the age of 30 to return to school and pursue a career in computers. While this choice may seem typical in the modern world, it causes quite a stir within her traditional Greek family. Her father, Gus (Michael Constantine), begrudgingly agrees to support her choice, but Toula realizes he would not approve her new job at Aunt Voula's (Andrea Martin) travel agency. Unless they make him believe it was his idea. In a classic moment, Voula, with Toula's mother Maria (Lainie Kazan), blatantly speak around the subject and finally get him to discover the idea. Now happy that Toula is following "his" great concept, Gus feels okay about her new position.

This enjoyable scene perfectly exemplifies one of the major themes of My Big Fat Greek Wedding—the men may be at the head, but the women are the neck. Maria gives Toula this insight into the strict Greek world, and it appears consistently throughout the picture. The story begins with Toula describing her troubling days as a unique child in the world of blond, blue-eyed girls. After reaching adulthood, her family anxiously waits for her to get married and have children, but it doesn't happen. Toula explains that in their world, Greek women exist for three purposes: "to marry Greek boys, make Greek babies, and feed everyone until the day that they die."

"You better get married soon. You're starting to look old." - Gus

One of the movie's highlights is Michael Constantine's quirky performance as Toula's old-school yet lovable father. So immensely proud of his Greek heritage, Gus will take any word and trace its roots back to the Greek language. He even provides an explanation for the word "kimono," which is quite a stretch. When anyone has any type of bruise or rash, he also sprays Windex on the them due to its supposedly healing properties. Gus says especially insensitive things to his daughter, but it actually does stem from a caring, if misguided heart. Constantine's acting stature is smoothly matched by Lainie Kazan in an equally impressive performance. Maria knows how to combat her husband's stubborness and realizes his genuine intentions beneath the brusque exterior.

"That family is like a piece of toast." - Gus

The central plot focuses on Toulah meeting and falling in love with Ian Miller (John Corbett), a charming high school teacher very different from her family. His parents are dull yuppies who spend their time sipping wine on the couch with little to say. While they obviously love him, Ian also feels isolated from their aspirations. The stark differences between the two cultures is one focus, but it never overwhelms the tender love story between Ian and Toulah. Corbett and Vardalos posess a striking chemistry, which is enhanced by the realistic nature of their characters. The tale moves briskly during its first act when their courtship is the focus, but it falters a bit as the wedding comes closer.

The gargantuan sucess of My Big Fat Greek Wedding was one of the few major surprises in a year again offering too many formulaic pictures. Gaining a ridiculously large audience almost entirely by word of mouth, it sold out shows for countless weeks across the country. So you ask, does it live up the hype? That would be impossible. The story is charming and funny, but it remains too confined to a fairly basic directing style. There is nothing wrong with this path, and the movie works exceptionally well, but it does not rank among the premier releases of the year. Vardalos has written a personal, energetic story from her own life that provides a silly and engaging look at her culture. It is definitely worth seeing and offers consistent entertainment, but do not expect a groundbreaking experience.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding appears in an acceptable 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. It offers impressive colors that work nicely during the attractive food shots. However, I was surprised by the significant amount of grain that often appeared on the transfer. A release of this magnitude would usually require a top-of-the-line picture. This one works well enough for presenting the film, but it lacks the pristine clarity I would have expected on this disc. Viewers may also choose to watch a pan & scan version, which produces less desirable results.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This film does not really require an extremely powerful audio transfer. It consists mostly of dialogue and is supported by some mediocre background music. It does feature a decent 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer. The silly conversations are easily understandable, and the sounds move nicely from each speaker. However, it offers nothing in the realm of astounding quality. A 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track is also included, and it provides a solid listening experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Greek with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer Nia Vardalos, Director Joel Zwick, and John Corbett
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only major extra feature included is an enjoyable feature-length commentary with Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, and director Joel Zwick. She dominates much of the conversation and explains how closely the tale relates to her own experiences. The early portions are a "documentary of Greek life" in her words. Vardalos speaks very comfortably about this project, which rests close to her heart, and her enthusiasm is engaging. Corbett also exudes a down-to-earth manner, which makes his thoughts interesting. His explanation of an actor's role in the larger picture is especially positive and worthwhile. Zwick stays mostly in the background, but he does appear periodically to offer plot summary or quick information.

This disc does also contain cast biographies for all of the central participants. They cover several screens and provide worthy backgrounds on some lesser-known actors.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

While viewing My Big Fat Greek Wedding a second time during the commentary, I came to a revelation about its incredible success. Nothing groundbreaking is really taking place, but the story loses very little in repeated viewings. In fact, I actually enjoyed it more the second time around. Presenting characters and ideas relating to nearly every cultural group, this genuine picture connected with audiences in a rare manner.

 


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