Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Joey Fatone
Love is here to stay... so is her family.
$597.362 thousand on 108 screens.
Rated PG for sensuality and language.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS Surround 2.0
Runtime: 95 min.
Release Date: 11/13/2012
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Actor Nia Vardalos, Actor John Corbett, and Director Joel Zwick
• “A Look Back at My Big Fat Greek Wedding” Featurette
• Five Deleted Scenes
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My Big Fat Greek Wedding [Blu-Ray] (2002)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 12, 2012)
A huge left-field hit, 2002’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding earned almost all of its money through word of mouth. People – mostly women – saw it and loved it, and it all turned into one of those “and they told two friends” shampoo commercials. A few million friends later, Greek ended up with $230 million in the US, which came to $225 million more than its budget.
I’ll go on the record and say that I don’t get it. Greek occasionally provoked mild mirth – and I do mean mild. For the most part, Greek seemed inane and boring.
We meet the Portokalos family, headed by father Gus (Michael Constantine) and mother Maria (Lainie Kazan). Obsessed with his heritage, Gus can find a Greek root for any word, and bizarrely, he uses Windex to cure all skin ailments. Gus and Maria have three kids: eldest daughter Athena, youngest son Niko, and middle child Toula. We see a little of their childhoods and watch the roots of the pressure Gus and others put on Toula to get married and have kids.
When we jump ahead and meet Toula (Nia Vardalos) as a 30-year-old, she still experiences the same pressures. Actually, they’ve intensified over time, and the fact that Athena (Stavroula Logothettis) got wed young and began to pop out babies – as expected of a good Greek girl – didn’t help. Niko (Louis Mandylor) doesn’t get the same pressure because he’s male; Gus thinks he still has plenty of time, whereas Toula’s past her “expiration date”.
Plain, pudgy and unattractive, things don’t look good for Toula, and she seems stuck inside her shell. However, one day Mr. Right enters the family diner where she works - literally. Customer Ian Miller (John Corbett) doesn’t really interact with Toula, but she clearly feels smitten with him. However, nothing comes from this, though Toula soon decides she needs to expand past her constrictive routine. She signs up for computer classes to become a travel agent, and she eventually signs on to work with her Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin). She also starts to come out of her shell and present herself in a more appealing manner.
On the job, Ian happens to see her through the storefront window, and the pair quickly strike up a relationship. Due to Ian’s non-Greek roots, Toula tries to keep this a secret from her family, but given the huge extended nature of the clan, this becomes impossible, and friction ensues. Gus gets angry and attempts to force other men on her. However, Toula and Ian seem to be made for each other, so the rest of the movie follows their plans for a wedding and the execution of that event.
As a 45-year-old male, I don’t seem to be within the film’s target audience, as it appears tailor-made for women, particularly of the middle-aged variety. (I got the middle-aged but not the female!) Actually, I’ll narrow that further, as I think Greek appeals mostly to the kind of women who love Touched By an Angel and who collect Hummel figurines. It becomes almost absurdly cutesy and sappy, and for the life of me, I can’t fathom what anyone sees in this overdone tripe.
A limp fairy tale, I suppose I should accept Greek as a fantasy. With its cartoon characters and inane dialogue, one can’t try to view it as reality. However, Greek never takes the appropriate steps to distance itself from the real world, so we’re forced to take it in that vein.
This causes some problems, particularly in regard to Ian, who comes across as a form of Perfect Man and no more. Not only is Corbett very handsome, but Ian offers the ultimate sensitive male. He gave up a prospective law career to help kids as a teacher, he totally accepts Toula’s family and culture and never says a peep despite all of the pressures placed on him. He loves Toula unconditionally, though the movie never makes it very clear what he thinks seems so appealing about her; he digs her from Minute One without the slightest clue why.
Vardalos’ broad performance doesn’t help. If we accept her as Ian’s dream girl, this occurs because of conditioning. We’ve seen so many stories with the ugly duckling who blossoms into the swan that whenever we’re confronted with someone unattractive and unpopular, we simply assume that there must be more beneath the surface.
Unfortunately, I don’t see anything particularly substantial about Toula. She displays no particular wit or charm, and though she becomes prettier as she emerges from her shell, she never turns into a raving beauty. We’re supposed to believe that Ian felt attracted to her all the way back in the diner, and this seems absurd. Not only did she look horrible at that point, but also she failed to demonstrate any spark or personality. Greek just wants us to accept his deep affection for Toula without any particular reason to do so.
At times the movie feels like Vardalos’s love letter to herself. Not only does she make Toula a woman able to attract a stud like Ian, but also she shaves almost 10 years off her age! Toula’s supposed to be 30, but Vardalos was pushing 40 when she made the film. Granted, the story needs Toula to be around 30 to work – 40’s too old for the character – but it’s still tough to swallow Vardalos as someone that age.
If the film offered anything real substance, I might more easily accept Vardalos’s fantasies, but the rest of Greek remains lackluster. It presents all the characters as broad and caricatured, and they never elevate above those levels. The participants don’t seem charmingly goofy; they just come across as obnoxious and trashy, at least in the case of Toula’s extended family. Gus appears selfish and mean-spirited in the way he treats his daughter, and the others just appear idiotic and crude. When even the great Andrea Martin can’t make her character come to life, then I know the project’s beyond hope.
Sometimes when I watch a movie, I like it more as I think about it. With every passing moment, I more intensely dislike My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I could continue to ramble more about its flaws – let’s not forget absurd dialogue like “It’s useless to dream, because nothing ever changes!” – but I’ll stop now. Audiences loved this flick, and more power to them; even when I disagree, I don’t begrudge anyone their pleasure. Suffice it to say that I don’t get its appeal, though, as I think Greek provides a boring, absurd and uninvolving piece of work.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B / Audio C+ / Bonus B-
My Big Fat Greek Wedding appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was never a great presentation, but it seemed fine given its low-budget roots.
Sharpness seemed adequate. On occasion, wide shots came across as a little soft and fuzzy, but the movie mostly appeared solid. The image usually displayed reasonably crisp and concise information. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and edge haloes were absent. I got no impression of digital noise reduction, so expect a good sense of natural grain. Print flaws were minor; I noticed a handful of specks but that was it.
Greek utilized a naturalistic palette, and the disc reproduced those tones well. The colors consistently came across as nicely accurate and precise. They didn’t blast off the screen, but they showed good clarity. Black levels were reasonably deep and rich, but shadow detail seemed somewhat murky at times. For instance, the candlelight dinner sequence appeared a bit flat and lackluster. For the most part, I thought the minor softness and murkiness related to the film’s origins, so this was a fairly representative product.
As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it offered a subdued experienced. The soundfield displayed a very heavy emphasis on the forward channels. Music showed decent stereo imaging, but otherwise, the mix offered very little beyond general ambience. Different locations showed acceptable environmental information but that was about it. Surround usage stayed in the same realm. Frankly, little came from this soundfield, but that was acceptable for this material.
Audio quality came across as decent. Speech seemed reasonably natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music was reasonably full, with clear tones overall. Effects didn’t have much to do, but they were accurate and concise. Nothing here excelled, but the audio was fine for a character-based comedy like this.
How did this Blu-ray compare to the original 2003 DVD? Audio sounded a bit more natural, and visuals looked more accurate and tight. While I wasn’t dazzled with anything here, the Blu-ray provided a decent upgrade.
The Blu-ray provides a mix of old and new extras. From the original DVD, we get an audio commentary with writer/actor Nia Vardalos, actor John Corbett, and director Joel Zwick. Vardalos and Corbett clearly sat together for this running, screen-specific piece, but it sounds like Zwick recorded his remarks separately and they were edited into the others. The disc’s producers try to offer the impression that the different parties respond to each other, but it appears obvious that this doesn’t occur.
The men provide only occasional information during this commentary. Zwick periodically makes a remark about his efforts, and Corbett includes some notes about his character, but those two don’t give us much material. Vardalos dominates the piece, which makes sense since it was her baby from the start. While she gives us some tidbits about her involvement in the film, she mainly tells us about how the characters and events connect to her real life experiences. The commentary sags at times, but for the most part, Vardalos maintains a good sense of energy and she helps make this a fairly interesting and informative track
The disc drops cast bios from the DVD but adds A Look Back at My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In this 29-minute, five-second retrospective, we hear from Vardalos, Corbett, and producers Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. “Look Back” examines the project’s origins and development, story and characters, cast and performances, some production details, the movie’s release and its success. The program covers some redundant material after the commentary, but it’s still a good piece. The highlights come from the on-set footage as well as clips from the Vardalos one-woman show that inspired the film. This becomes a worthwhile program.
Five Deleted Scenes run a total of five minutes. These tend to be character pieces that add to the supporting roles. They’re inessential, though fans will enjoy them, I suspect.
Audiences disagreed with me in 2002, but virtually nothing about My Big Fat Greek Wedding appealed to me then or now. This comedy fails to deliver a single laugh, and it turns sappy and drippy at the drop of a hat. Add to that flat, cartoony performances and an inane script and you end up with a weak experience. The Blu-ray brings us reasonably good picture and audio along with a small but informative set of supplements. Ten years after I first saw it, I still find Wedding to be a poor film, but I think the Blu-ray represents it well.
To rate this film visit the original review of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING