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Rumour has it that several big name film corporations passed on the script for My Big Fat Greek Wedding in its early days before Gold Circle films jumped on board in what turned out to be a very wise move. This is after Tom Hanks’ better half caught a performance of soon-to-be-star Nia Vardalos’ one woman stage show and approached her about a film version. A sharp eye, one would say.

Who would have thought that in an era where filmmakers are trying to woo audiences with new topics, techniques and shock value that an innocent film such as this one could steal the hearts of audiences worldwide. This is the story of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which turned out to be My Big Fat Wad Of Cash for those involved following its ever-expanding theatrical release. And they’re bound to reap even more rewards thanks to the home video market.

Sexy!!??!

Movie
With the extra-long title it’s not hard to figure out the crux of the story. A Greek girl named Toula Pourtokalos (Vardalos) has hit the 30 years of age mark and is still without her stereotypical Greek fella for a husband. Her (incredibly large) family bemoans the fact that Toula doesn’t have the confidence nor the interest to go to Greece and pick up a nice, ethnic boy from her homeland.

While working in her family’s restaurant pouring coffee (glorified by adding the title ‘seating hostess’) Toula is dumbstruck by a man chatting with his friend over the table. She freezes, makes a tit of herself and can’t pour the coffee to save her life but somehow she makes the smallest impression on this man, while he makes a rather large impression on her. But as the tagline states, he might be her dream guy but he’s also as Greek as apricot chicken (which, admittedly, wasn’t as funny to me until I was filled in on the origins of the food). When this man named Ian (Sex & The City’s John Corbett in a richly deserved lead role) stumbles upon Toula again the multicultural sparks begin to fly.

In an ethnic version of Meet The Parents, the comedy stems largely from the scenes involving Toula’s crazy family and their interaction with Ian, who does well to remain sane even after all the trauma he has to go through. But you can tell he’s very much in love, and it’s testament to the precision of the script that we buy every minute of it and never think of it as schmaltz.

Credit must go to Vardalos who was rightfully given the role she created with her stage play and doesn’t miss a beat throughout. Her innocence and underlying charm is one of the major factors why the film works because she never overplays anything, instead letting the writing do most of the talking. Corbett is a good choice as Ian, wise in that the filmmakers could have easily gone for a bigger name (though not too big, thinking of the budget) to get some more bums on seats. But with these two at the helm they didn’t need any help and the film succeeds on the back of two very good performances.

That's better

The support cast is basically a bunch of caricatures (including Australia’s own semi-Greek Gia Carides) but for the Greek community there’s a large element of truth. You’ll spot the over-zealous sisters, the protective parents and the father who thinks Windex is the cure for any ailment under the sun. Some of their conversations are hilarious and when Ian becomes involved it only gets better. You can see yourself reacting the same way in those situations, which makes watching the film all that more fun.

Even though this romantic comedy deals with an out-of-luck woman’s quest for love we never really delve into the ‘ugly girl becomes pretty’ scenario. Instead we dive headlong into the situations surrounding (firstly) the pair’s instant attraction and (secondly) the way they deal with the cultural boundaries, albeit in a very hap-hazard, exaggerated way. We know they’re going to get married but it’s the fun in getting there. Such an innocent story was a dead set surprise hit for most but the way it is told flies in the face of some of the pretentiousness in films nowadays.

A great night in and sure to be a decent laugh no matter what you’re age bracket.

Video
Another Roadshow hit arrives on DVD accompanied by a smashing visual transfer. Presented in anamorphic 1.85:1, the film comes up great on our favourite format. Colours are vibrant, the print is exceptionally clean and there are no signs of aliasing or artefacts even for a lower budget release such as this one. No doubt those who created the disc wanted to cash in on the Big Fat Greek hype and do justice to the film in the process. If anything the transfer is a little soft but that’s far from uncommon in family-style comedies of late.

Audio
The disc contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track as well as a 2.0 mix for those not so well equipped. But the latter group isn’t really missing out on much as the soundtrack doesn’t call for all that much action from your rear speakers. You get to hear the pings and pangs of the Greek-themed music bouncing around from time to time but that’s basically about it. There’s no subwoofer action to speak of (giving mine a well deserved rest after the belting I’d dished it out) but nor does there need to be. This is a totally unremarkable soundtrack but few will care as the dialogue is always clear and you’ll be laughing during the other parts anyway.

Plastic covered couches. Classic.

Extras
A couple of extras are thrown in to give the disc a bit of weight, which fans of the film are bound to enjoy.

First up is the audio commentary with Vardalos, Corbett and Director Joel Zwick, who lets the writing do the work in the film but has a bit to say about the production in this screen-specific commentary. Straight away John Corbett declares the film ‘the best movie of 2002’ but it’s not a whole amount of back-slapping. Instead the trio gives us some great info about various issues to do with the production such as the budget, locations and costumes. Vardalos drives the track throughout but it’s pretty balanced and is well worth a listen.

Next up are two interviews with Nia Vardalos, the first from Australia’s Today Show with Richard Wilkins. The interview itself is pretty fluffy, much in the same vein as the television show, and it was produced during the film’s theatrical run meaning a lot of familiar ground is covered, but again it’s great to hear Vardalos’ input about the film she basically created. The next interview is from a radio segment on Australia’s ABC radio station. Someone bizarrely pops a cork at the beginning but the interview is a very good piece, helmed by (I think) comedian Libby Gorr (Elle McFeast to most Australians).  It’s great to see some visual material playing in the background, including behind the scenes footage from the production. This is the way all radio pieces should be presented so the viewer doesn’t become bored just trying to listen.

Rounding out the disc is the theatrical trailer, which probably gives a little too much away but certainly helped (along with a huge wave of word of mouth) to swell audience numbers. Also included are some detailed biographies of the nine major cast members and director Joel Zwick. Not the most in depth package but there’s some value in the commentary and the interviews for true fans of the film.

Group hug!!

Overall
What a surprise this one was in cinemas and it’s great to see it arrive on a nicely packaged DVD. Vardalos and Corbett provide the foundation for what is an innocently brilliant romantic comedy, easily one of the best from the genre in years. The video is superb and the audio and extras are serviceable so there’s no shame in picking up this release to add to your collection. Those who haven’t seen it have the pleasure of watching a great flick for the first time in the comfort of your own home, and no doubt you’ll have as much fun as I did.


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