'My Big Fat Greek Wedding': THR's 2002 Review
In the spring of 2002, an indie comedy film from Nia Vardalos became an unexpected theatrical hit. The Tom Hanks co-produced My Big Fat Greek Wedding benefited from word-of-mouth throughout the summer, ultimately grossing over $240 million domestically. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a slight but agreeable comedy about the courtship and wedding of a Greek-American woman by — to the shock of her large, loud family — a non-Greek. Most of the movie's humor stems from the characters' ethnicity and the clashing of cultures. The film offers no special insights into the Greek-American community; it would play exactly the same if the family were Latino or Chinese or Indian. Indeed, several indie films with similar stories played at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Co-produced by Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson (who is of Greek heritage), this IFC Films release will probably have little impact theatrically outside of its obvious ethnic audience but should make a pleasant cable diversion. The major hook here is that actress-writer Nia Vardalos is playing her own story. The script for Greek Wedding is based on an autobiographical one-woman show written and starring this Second City alumna.
Her character, Toula, is nothing but a headache to the extended Portokalos clan of Chicago. At 30, with her clothes disheveled and wearing glasses, she is "past my expiration date" for marriage to a nice Greek boy. She works in her parents' restaurant, Dancing Zorba's, where everyone treats her as an ugly duckling.
Seizing control of her life, Toula enrolls in a computer class over the objections of her Old World dad. Fixing herself up — new hairdo, contacts, makeup and form-fitting clothes — Toula is ready to meet the man of her life. Which she promptly does. Only he is a WASP schoolteacher named Ian (John Corbett, reminding you a little of a young Jeff Bridges), not at all what the Portokalos clan has in mind.
Thus begins an awkward romance away from prying family eyes, the eventual discovery of the affair, the to-ing and fro-ing over her engagement to a "foreigner" and finally the big fat Greek wedding of the title where, seemingly, everyone of Greek ancestry in the greater Chicago area gets invited.
This scenario contains a few good lines, and Vardalos' vivacity carries the day despite cliches and caricatures. But if you think the Greek characters are stereotypical, they're not half as bad as Ian's anal-retentive WASP family.
Tearing into their roles as if they were fresh meat are Michael Constantine as Toula's male-chauvinist dad, Lainie Kazan — who else? — as her more sympathetic mom, Andrea Martin as her busybody aunt and Gia Carides and 'N Sync's Joey Fatone as flamboyant cousins.
Shot in Toronto under the direction of TV sitcom veteran Joel Zwick, Greek Wedding lacks cinematic flair. It looks more like a film designed for the small screen. But, like Toula, it has a good-natured personality. — Kirk Honeycutt, originally published April 17, 2002.