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“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”

Movie executives and industry commentators are of course calling “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” the “surprise hit” of the summer. That’s accurate but distressing, for we shouldn’t be surprised that an actual story well-told on film will do good business.

Its writer and star, Nia Vardalos, with some help from actors-producers Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, took a timeless story and $5 million budget and turned them into a hit movie and $82 million gross, so far.

 

That may not sound like much in Hollywood bucks, but most executives will take that return on investment. The Los Angeles Times reported that “Big Fat” had its best showing last weekend, pulling in $14.6 million. After five months of release, that’s phenomenal. It will likely break the $100 million mark.

 

Vardalos plays Toula Portokalos, a Greek waitress who falls for non-Greek high school teacher Ian Miller, WASPily played by John Corbett. Toula’s family—especially her father—is shocked at the development, nonplussed as to why she would break with tradition and bring an “outsider” into the family.

 

It’s apples and oranges, in more ways than one (see the movie and find out), and from the culture-clash come the drama and comedy.

 

It’s a shame more movies aren’t like this one. Rated PG, it’s one for all generations of the family.

 

“It doesn’t have what I call the cringe factor,” said Rita Wilson in the New York Times. “You can take your kids, and you can take your parents. This is really an old-fashioned kind of movie.”

 

The laughs flow freely in this smart script, based on Vardalos’ one-woman theatrical show. The story deals with heritage, family, cultural identity, gender roles, generation gaps and more.

 

Toula’s narration adds another layer to the story, providing both comedy and texture. For example, Toula reminisces early on about her Greek upbringing: “I had to go to Greek school, where I sat in a room translating ‘if Nick has one goat and Maria has nine—how soon will they marry?'”

 

Audiences are certain to leave the theater remembering the one-liners, which may help account for the positive word-of-mouth “Big Fat” is generating.

 

Examples:

 

Toula’s mother, Maria, to her son: “Nicko! Don’t play with food. When I was your age, we didn’t have food.”

 

Toula’s Aunt Voula to Ian: “You’re a vegetarian? That’s OK. I’ll make lamb.”

 

Toula’s father, Gus, to everyone: “Last night my toe was as big as my face. Windex cures everything!”

 

Movie executives and industry commentators are of course calling “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” the “surprise hit” of the summer. That’s accurate but distressing, for we shouldn’t be surprised that an actual story well-told on film will do good business.

 

Hollywood, however, is surprised. The film had no A-list stars, no state-of-the-art effects and no $25 million marketing blitz. “Big Fat” is just a good story caught on celluloid at a reasonable (by Hollywood standards) price.

 

So where do we go from here?

 

First, we should pat ourselves on the back for still recognizing quality when we see it.

 

Second, Hollywood should notice that people still do recognize quality, and that it sometimes comes packaged in $5 million budgets.

 

Third, we should remember that people still make movies exploring the human condition. By going to the movies, we can explore too.

 

Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.

 

Visit the movie’s official Web site!

 

MPAA Rating: PG for sensuality and language

Director: Joel Zwick

Writer: Nia Vardalos

Cast: Toula Portokalos: Nia Vardalos; Ian Miller: John Corbett; Gus Portokalos: Michael Constantine; Maria Portokalos: Lainie Kazan; Aunt Voula: Andrea Martin; Nick Portokalos: Louis Mandylor.