In case you haven't noticed, a little film called "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" has skyrocketed from relative obscurity to become the near champion of the box office and the surprise hit of the year.
There's a very good reason for this.
Nia Vardalos' semi biographical love child actually has something for everyone, there is no demographic it is trying to appeal to, no awards it's trying to win.
Vardalos just wants to let her family loose, and we are more than happy to let her.
Vardalos plays Fortoula Portokalos, a lonely waitress at her family's restaurant, "Dancing Zorba's". Her family is obsessed with their ethnicity; their house is decked out like an ancient Greek palace with the garage door doubling as a huge Greek flag, her father Gus (Michael Constantine) always embarrassed her on the way to school by flaunting his knowledge of the Greek language. Gus believes that all good Greek girls should grow up and marry a "nice Greek boy". Her mom Maria (Lainie Kazan) is a family ringleader who always thrives on excess. Although Maria basically sides with Gus, she would be happy with someone of any nationality who Fortoula chooses to marry. When Fortoula meets the man of her dreams (Ian Miller, played by John Corbett), who is very much not Greek, the family feud begins.
For those just dying to know, yes, "Greek Wedding" does function well as a romantic comedy. Nia Vardalos and John Corbett do good work together, although what will probably be most appealing to moviegoers is simply what an unlikely couple the two make. There's no Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan or Reese Witherspoon here. "Greek Wedding" tells its audience that it's OK to be frumpy and shlumpy; there's a "right one" out there for everyone.
Romantic comedy aside, what really makes "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" so special is its wonderful cast of characters and the actors playing them. The family in this film is not so distant; indeed, almost every single one of the characters is of the "everybody knows one" variety. I have come across plenty of Guses, Marias, Aunt Voulas, and others. The characters are so familiar in our everyday lives and the situations so close to home that it's hard not to laugh until it hurts. Nothing wrong with universal appeal, is there?
Remember that scene in "Annie Hall" where Woody Allen goes to have lunch with Diane Keaton's mom, who can only view him in Hasidic garb? Scenes like this, where awkwardness is king, power some of the best parts of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". In one such scene, Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin, who's quickly becoming one of the most versatile character actresses in the business) gives Ian's parents their "initiation" into the family. Listen carefully... it's not exactly what one would immediately expect. But then again, not much in "Greek Wedding" really is.
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is a jolly film so full of chutzpah, so bursting at the seams with laughter and conviviality that it can fairly be called a must see. It sports a terrific ensemble, fantastic one-liners and gags, and most importantly, Nia Vardalos fond memories of her own family. This is a wonderful film indeed; when you see it, bring the family. Oopah!