My Big Fat Greek Wedding

My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the unexpected box office hit of summer 2002, is an ethnic comedy that ups the ante on Meet the Parents (2002). Voiceovers at the beginning and end by Tula Portokalos (played by Nia Vardalos) explain that the entire Portokalos family seems so ethnocentric about their Greek heritage that she feels stifled. While in public school, her personal appearance and home-prepared lunch placed her out of the mainstream. Although her father insisted that she was supposed to marry a Greek boy after graduation from school and make more Greek babies, at the age of thirty she a homely waitress at her parent’s Greek restaurant with no prospect of ever marrying. One day she flips for Ian Miller (played by John Corbett), who visits the restaurant for a cup of coffee with a friend. Next, she decides to take computer courses in the evening to advance herself, specializing in tourism-related aspects, and a Greek-American-owned travel agency hires her when she finishes. Meanwhile, she has been improving her personal appearance, and when Ian passes by the travel agency one day, he flips. They meet, date, fall in love, and want to get married. But custom requires the Greek father, Gus (played by Michael Constantine), to approve, not only of the first date but also of the marriage. His approval comes only after his wife Maria (played by Lainie Kazan) out-argues him as usual, but to ensure approval by Tula’s family, Ian agrees to be baptized at the Greek Orthodox Church. The meet-the-parents dinner turns out to be a boisterous meet-the-extended-family party, yet one in which the family accepts Ian wholeheartedly. When Tula meets Ian’s parents (played by Fiona Reid and Bruce Gray) for dinner, however, the latter are awkward, tongue-tied, undemonstrative, yet accepting. Obviously, opposites have attracted each other. Next come the wedding, reception, and honeymoon. Tula’s father generously buys a house for the couple next door to his own, and they live happily ever after. So much for the plot, which does not really account for the success of the film. What primarily makes the film so popular are the laugh-a-minute Greek chauvinistic remarks as well as the mortified expressions on the faces of Ian’s parents. Since the characters are all stereotypes, the laughter is uproarious. Directed by Joel Zwick, a filmviewer might conclude that Greeks are the most ethnocentric among Europeans, yet they did allow their daughter to marry a non-Greek. Nowadays, few Greeks marry other Greeks in the United States, so the point of the film to Greeks may be to say that their rich culture may be lost.  MH

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