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"My Big Fat Greek Wedding"

Directed by Joel Zwick.
Written by Nia Vardalos. 
Starring Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  5/1/02 


My friend Val pushed this film to me, an indy that opened here last weekend.  Of course, “independent film” is a tough term these days, since most of these films have major star backing...and, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is no exception.  It was produced by Tom Hanks and his wife, who basically (along with maybe Tom Cruise) is the most powerful actor in Hollywood.  So, already you know the film is at least pretty good...

...if you are a woman.  “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” stars Nia Vardalos (who also wrote the film...which is a problem) as Toula, a frumpy 30-year-old Greek woman that is pitifully single and living at home with her super-Greek family.  Mom and Dad want her to get married as soon as possible, which is tough, since she looks at least 45 when the film opens and might be past her marrying prime.  Luckily, through the magic of the movies, Toula loses some weight and some heavy skin around the eyes and chin to slim up...just in time to meet Ian (John Corbett, perfectly cast since he plays a similar role on “Sex and the City”), a too-perfect teacher that falls in love with the new Toula at first sight.  This leads to romance, then an engagement, then “Father of the Bride III:  Anyone Like Gyros?”

If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, then you know what is coming next.  Two words:  total friggin’ chick flick.

Admittedly, I am getting better at sitting through movies that are wholly intended for a female audience.  Five years ago, I would have avoided this flick like drunk fat women.  Or Irish bars.  Or that TV show “The Bachelor.”  (I recently heard that there was a show on TV called “The Bachelor.”  No lie, I heard about this show for the first time on the show’s final night, because all of the women at the office were talking about it.  Add this to “Survivor” for the Shows That Justin Never Watched or Heard About file; I think I might be living in a cave.)  But seriously, I am now able to stomach films like this if they have even a minimal amount of appeal to a male audience.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” only partially addresses us men.  The movie is, at varying points, mildly amusing to out-and-out hilarious, with five or six scenes worthy of full belly laughter.  My favorite might be when Toula’s brother Nick (Louis Mandylor) tries to convince Ian that if Toula gets abused in the relationship, Nick and the other Greek men of the family will come after him; also, Grandma (I never got her real name) has some great scenes as a Turk-hating old schooler, and many of the scenes around the “baptism” sequence are damned funny.

But, the movie slips too often into sappy romance, and they played what is—I’m convinced—the same piano-driven “sensitive” jingle every time something ROMANTIC or DRAMATIC is almost sit there waiting for the next one of them.  There are, by my unofficial count, six different scenes in the movie where I slouched in my chair and rolled my eyes at what was happening on screen; whether it was cheesy lines or Vardalos’ acting, I could see other guy friends of mine saying “Yo, let’s break out of here” at the sight of these sequences.  Painful.  Much like “Kissing Jessica Stein”, this film could really have used a good lead performance to sub for the lead character...and, from checking her bio on IMDB, Vardalos really is 40, which is what one assumes when they watch this film anyway.  I am now sure that I will never star in one of my own films if I ever make it in Hollywood.  I’ll probably show up in them, but hey, I’m no actor.

I am sure that your experience will be DECIDEDLY different if you are either a) Greek, or b) a female, and if you are one or the other, run out and see this film right now.  But, if you’re a non-Greek man and you get stuck in that purgatory known as Date Night, a pre-scheduled weekly affair where you are obligated to do something with your significant other that is more mundane than fresh & spontaneous, try and steer your lovely towards something more beneficial to both parties, like “Panic Room” or “Y Tu Mama Tambien.”

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09