My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Main cast: Nia Vardalos (Toula Portokalos), John Corbett (Ian Miller), Michael Constantine (Gus Portokalos), Lainie Kazan (Maria Portokalos), Andrea Martin (Aunt Voula), and Joey Fatone (Angelo)
Director: Joel Zwick


Somewhere inside this movie, written by and starring Nia Vardalos as a frumpy ugly duckling turned romantic swan, is the heart of a romantic pulsing true and strong. But in trying too hard to be the Episcopalian answer to Barbra Streisand, Vardalos prematurely overplays her hand and turns this movie into All About How Beautiful I Am.

Like Streisand, Vardalos is using this movie as a shrink couch for her own image issues, and I am not happy to have paid to see everyone in this movie reassure her that yes, in the end Toula Portokalos, her character, is so beautiful, very beautiful, so amazing, so enchanting, so witty, so talented, oh take a pencil and poke both my eyes out of misery please.

Toula is a 30-year spinster who isn't happy with her being taken for granted by her parents. Her father is a Greek-supremist twit and keeps harping on her to make Greek babies with a Greek guy, and I wonder how this 30-year old woman seems incapable of making her own decisions while telling me that she is "special".

Indeed, she is special. After she met Ian Miller, definitely not Greek, she puts on make-up and washes and grooms her hair and wow! Ian sees what a special, special woman she is - it isn't just the make-up, I'm sure - and when they marry, he bends and lets the rest of the ridiculously overbearing Portokalos clan walk over him, because he knows that Special, Special Toula is worth it.

In the end, everyone is in love with Toula, and all hail her beauty! Toula, luminent, reassured of her place in the upper hierarchies of privileged humans, waved her hand that bears her ultimate prize - a wedding ring from her husband that she deigned to marry only after he has spent the entire movie assuring her that she is beautiful, oh so dazzling.

Apart from the self-masturbatory script, Vardalos' comedic timing is way off. She just cannot do slapstick, and when she falls down, I cringe rather than laugh because she does it so ineptly. Wit? Maybe she can do wit, but wit flies out the window the moment Toula puts on lipstick and everyone falls to his or her feet to adore her. John Corbett's Ian is nothing more than an ego-boost for Toula. In fact, the only memorable characters here are Toula's mother and Toula's aunt, two women who seem natural and at ease for once in this badly-mistimed comedy of egos - Vardalos' ego.

There are some moments - such as when Toula cowers behind the water cooler to hide from Ian - that My Big Fat Greek Wedding finally resembles a movie with genuine heart. For too long, however, everything feels contrived and artificial. It's all about Vardalos, and it shows.

Rating: 59


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