My Big Fat Greek Wedding is full of big fat Greek stereotypes, but I found myself succumbing to its pull-out-all-the-stops eagerness to please. Nia Vardalos, who created the one-woman show the movie's based on, stars as Toula, the eldest daughter in a Chicago family that has a bad case of the assimilationist blues. When we first set eyes on her, Toula is a lank-haired frump who shies away from boys. Then she starts taking classes at a community college, discovers makeup and meets a handsome schoolteacher (John Corbett, with that lazy-boy charm of his) who doesn't have a Greek bone in his body. This sets off fire alarms in the severely Hellenic mind of Toula's father, ably played by Michael Constantine. Lainie Kazan is around to offer a mother's love and understanding. And Andrea Martin reaches back to her old Second City days to portray the ouzo-swilling Aunt Voula.
Vardalos, who also spent some time at Second City, does a nice job with the ugly-duckling-to-swan transformation, easing off on both ends. And it's a shame we can't spend more time with her, but there are all those stereotypes to wallow in. Toula's parents' house, for instance, is a bad-taste showcase, with plastic-covered furniture, a Parthenon-ish front porch and a Mount Olympus' worth of statues on the front lawn. But Vardalos also throws in some genuine quirkiness, like Toula's father's faith in Windex as the answer to all life's problems. Within the realm of comic overstatement, the cast underplays just enough to make the whole thing go down. And I must admit that, when it comes to ethnic flavor at the movies, it's nice to try Greek after a steady diet of other Mediterranean cuisines ' Italian, for instance.
"We're big and loud," Toula says at movie's end, reaffirming lessons we learned at Zorba the Greek and Never on Sunday. My Big Fat Greek Wedding may have about as much to do with being Greek as moose caca has to do with moussaka (Vardalos' joke, not mine). But, being a Midwestern yokel who likes a good time, it's all Greek to me.