On paper, nothing about “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” screams out “originality.” A shy, frumpy girl comes out of her shell, attracts the attention of the man of her dreams, who isn’t exactly the man her family dreamed for her. Yet director Joel Zwick has made a comedy that, if not exactly a gutbuster, one that is consistently charming, and that is due to the fresh voice and presence of writer/star Nia Vardalos.
“Greek Wedding” is based on Vardalos’ autobiographical one-woman stage show of the same name, which likely accounts for the slightness of the narrative. Her Toula Portokalos is 30, unmarried, and has no problem with it–which causes concern in her parents (Michæl Constantine and Lainie Kazan), who own the Greek restaurant where she works. Only when she sees one Ian Miller (John Corbett) come into the restaurant one day is she inspired to make a change in her life: off go the glasses, in go the contacts plus college computer courses and a new job to match. As fate and luck would have it, she and Ian encounter each other again and embark on a romance certain to draw the ire of her very traditional Greek father.
The exact outcome of Toula and Ian’s relationship isn’t exactly a mystery (after all, look at the title), and the relationship itself is almost impossibly perfect, for there doesn’t seem to be one slight flaw in Ian’s character. That the romance at the center of this comedy is largely played straight speaks of the low-key sincerity of the entire film. While knowing potshots at some of the old country Greek ways and the various eccentricities that come with large families pave the road to the matrimonial destination, what propels the journey is the genuine affection behind the humor–and that is courtesy of Vardalos, whose comic timing and appeal also extends to her efforts in front of the camera. As mentioned earlier, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” may not exactly be an innovative film, but it most certainly is a lovable one.