Based on screenwriter-star Nia Vardalos’s one-woman stage show, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was the sleeper hit of 2002, with its broad, fond satire of old-world family values in a new-world setting. The premise is pure sitcom — culture clash when ugly-duckling daughter of ultra-Greek family has surprise romance with hunky non-Greek — and the supporting characters, in keeping with their stage-show origins, are painted in broad, cartoony strokes: overbearing but indulgent paterfamilias, tacitly manipulative matriarch, lusty brothers/cousins, etc.
Yet what it lacks in depth, it makes up in breadth of appeal, wholesome humor, and affectionate celebration of tight-knit extended families, with all the tradition and history and turbulence that goes with them. Endearing eccentricities, such as Toula’s father’s improvisational Greek etymologies of words like "kimono" and his reliance on Windex for a range of external-use medicinal purposes, help humanize the characters.
From a moral-spiritual perspective, the film has two flaws: It takes an indulgent view of the couple’s premarital intimacy, and it depicts the groom-to-be’s Greek Orthodox baptism in purely cultural, non-religious terms ("I’m Greek now," he says afterwards). Fortunately, these isolated lapses are more than overshadowed by the film’s redemptive pro-family themes, memorably summed up by Toula’s father in a final speech full of genuine warmth.
Ironically, while paying lip service to Georgia’s high standards, My Life in Ruins really has its sights set on Nico’s lowest-common-denominator approach. Although the film shoot was granted unprecedented access to shoot in some of Greece’s most historically significant sites, including the Acropolis, there’s little effort to communicate any real sense of the history and significance of the sites.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.