The story of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”revolves around Toula Portakalos (Nia Vardalos), a plain wallflower that is part of a vibrantly Greek family living in the suburbs of Chicago. After a brief look into the past showing Toula as a child struggling with her family’s eccentricities, we are brought to the present day where she is working as a waitress in restaurant owned by her family. She is 30 years old and seen as the ugly duckling of the family without much hope of finding a nice Greek husband to settle down and have children with. One day she briefly waits on a handsome stranger (John Corbett) who takes her breath away. The interaction propels her to change her diminutive and shy ways. Her transformation from the ugly duckling to beautiful swan is shown in a brief montage setting up her meeting with the stranger again. His name ends up being Ian and they instantly have chemistry and begin a loving relationship. The rest of the film deals with them dealing with the fact that he is not Greek and Toula’s family trying to accept him.
The unfolding of the plot happens in a straightforward manner and relies heavily on the family providing the bulk of the laughs throughout. It’s tough to call this family a group of fully fleshed out characters because they come across more as caricatures completely built off of Greek stereotypes. There are lots of big hairdo’s, men wearing tank tops, exaggerated emotions and traditional motivations. I believe some of this is intentional since much of what is seen on screen comes from Vardalos’s real life family experiences. It is only natural to exaggerate those for entertainment purposes. However that still doesn’t mean that they should be entirely without depth. As an example, some side characters such as Toula’s brother Nick (Louis Mandylor) and Angelo (Joey Fatone) would both feel right at home on the Jersey Shore.
All of this firmly puts the film into the viewer category of kicking back and enjoying the lunacy on a purely effortless level without thought or introspection. There are a few running gags that are revisited during the film involving the father using Windex as a cure-all of scrapes, burns and bruises and the wacky grandma trying to escape the house but keeps getting foiled. The acting is fun and undemanding. Verdalos is charming and sweet in the lead role. Corbett, known mostly for his time served on “Northern Exposure” and “Sex in the City”, is merely serviceable as the other half of the happy couple. It could be the way his character was written as well. There are some slight comedic moments for him but nothing that really makes him quirky or uniquely different. He is the straight man to the comedic antics of the family.
In one of the extras Vardalos is very open about the fact that she wanted to be an actress but there were no real roles offered to actors with a classic Greek look other than side characters or the friend-of-the-main-character roles. This spawned her to think about what she can offer, which is an entertaining look at her Greek family that is rich with personality. She took her idea the regional theater route and after it became popular, it snowballed with help from the likes of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson into a full cinematic production. I believe that led to a lot of its popularity and in turn, its success.
HBO presents the 10th anniversary of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The AVC encoded transfer looks good considering its modestly budgeted origins. While not eye-popping, the image is clean with some nice fine object detail. There are a few specks here and there but nothing that is too distracting. A new master most likely would’ve made the picture look better but not by much. Grain structure is intact as there are no signs of DNR or any image tampering in post. The beginning flashback scenes are intentionally grainier than the rest of the film.
The English 5.1 DT-Master audio track sounds good all around. There are no bombastic moments to push any limits however the dialogue sounds realistic. It is mostly prioritized to the front and side speakers throughout. The back speakers to come alive whenever music is played and nicely fills the soundstage. In all, it is a nice presentation only benefitting slightly from being loseless.
The main extra is a half hour retrospective piece entitled “A Look Back at ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’.” This is an enjoyable piece that nicely details how exactly the movie became made and the road from inspiration to production. It is a mixture of new interviews and archived footage of Vardalos performing her play in small playhouses. The second extra is a handful of deleted scenes that are more of a curiosity than a revelation of what could have been. Lastly is an audio commentary Vardalos, the director Joel Zwick and John Corbett. It is an interesting listen with a lot of the talk going back to Verdalos using her real life family experiences.
In the end “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a breezy, ethnocentric romantic comedy that will appeal to a mass audience. It may not have a deep emotional punch or any interesting plot twists but there is enough Greek fun throughout the film to give it a unique feel that helps to separate it from the rest of the rom-com pack. As far the technicals are concerned, fans of the film will find the 30 minute retrospective interesting and with slightly above satisfactory hi-def video and audio, this Blu-ray is happily recommended.