My Big Fat Greek Wedding
It used to be we'd only get the "ethnic wedding" picture every couple of years or so, but it's apparently such a successful (and inexpensive) formula that we're now graced with a couple every summer. The latest, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," is based on a one-woman play by Nia Vardalos, who plays the role of the betrothed Toula.
A one-woman play is essentially a two-hour monologue, "mono" being a handy prefix in this case given that each character has exactly one dimension and thus each actor has exactly one job to do. Toula is the frumpess bride, who, once she cleans up and learns to wash her hair, gets engaged to Ian (John Corbett) and spends the rest of the film with a nervous, expectant look on her face to see what her wacky Greek family will do next. Patriarch Gus's (Michael Constantine) role is to be the gruff-but-lovable father while mother Maria (Lainie Kazan) is the understanding matriarch orchestrating the swarms of screeching Greek cousins who cover everything. The role of Ian's parents is to sit uncomfortably and make that "I smell dog crap" face whenever one of their future Greek in-laws splatters tzatziki on their golf sweaters. One disturbing detail is that his Ian's mom looks so much like Steve Buscemi in drag that I'm likely to have recurring nightmares about it.
Ian, meanwhile, can't even claim to have a single dimension. He is apparently so bereft of an identity that he gamely goes along with the demands of his new Greek in-laws, no matter how absurd they may seem. He gets baptized as a Greek orthodox, agrees to have a Greek wedding, fires his best man because he's not Greek, and barely acknowledges his own parents in the process. Though Ian fails to provide enough resistance to lend it friction, this is the central conflict in the film -- Ian's in-laws hate him because he's not Greek, so he turns Greek to appease them.
Don't get me wrong -- his in-laws may be racist, but it's a warm, affectionate kind of racism. They're racist because they love too much. For going along, Ian's portrayed as the hero, as opposed to a sap and a coward. Sure, his parents and friends are WASPy and stiff and thus have no feelings, but you can't wonder if we're already sowing the seeds for when Ian wakes up one night, decides to take his life back and files for a Big Fat Greek Divorce.
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