I suppose you could say I was a late arrival to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". The picture had already taken in over 100 million by the time I'd taken the time to see it on a Saturday afternoon. After the credits rolled about 95 minutes later, all I could say was, "is that it?" Don't get me wrong, it's not that I think - or thought then - that the film was necessarily bad or terribly flawed. It's just that - well - I still feel as if I've seen this movie before.
Obviously, nearly everyone knows the film's tale by now - the "little film that could", the one made for $5m and whose gross has now exceeded $200m. The film that opened sometime last April and still continues to play in some theaters even as the video release date draws near. The film is based on the one-woman play by former Second City member Nia Vardalos and, reportedly, is based upon her own history. Rita Wilson (wife of Tom Hanks) saw the play one afternoon and decided that she and Hanks would produce a film version.
The film's first half-hour starts off with little momentum, as we meet Toula (Vardalos), a wallflower working at her parent's Greek restaurant. We know it's only a matter of time before Toula undergoes a makeover and breaks away from her family. This predictability makes the opening bit drag on somewhat, although some of Toula's flashbacks about her childhood are amusing.
Finally, in walks Ian (John Corbett), who Toula quickly falls for. She gives herself a makeover, applies for college and eventually, gets herself a job at the local travel agency. Ian walks into her life once again, and the two fall for one another. Of course, Toula's family won't make things easy - especially when they find Toula isn't going to marry another Greek.
It's when Vardalos and Corbett are together that the film works best. The two have a terrific chemistry with one another that finally starts the film moving with decent momentum. The film's comedy is occasionally a mixed bag, though. While Toula's observations of her family are usually sharply funny, jokes like her father's ability to find the Greek root of any word or his ability to use Windex for just about anything are funny once, not funny the 9th or 10th time the script pulls them out.
Still, while some of the characters may be portrayed in a way that seems stereotypical, there are some fine performances here that make more out of the characters. While Vardalos doesn't offer an award-worthy performance, she's fun, realistic and has fine comedic timing. Corbett, Joey Fatone (of N'Sync) and several others offer fine supporting performances. Michael Constantine's performance as Toula's father is fine, even though his dislike of the fact that his daughter is marrying a Non-Greek person was unreasonable and seemed to border on mean-spirited.
Overall, I liked "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" a bit more the second time. I still feel some of the humor is repetitive and don't quite understand the film's unbelievable success, but it's still a fun and enjoyable way to spend 95 minutes.
VIDEO: HBO presents "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame, both of which are contained on the same side of a dual-layer disc. Although the opening of the picture starts off a little on the grainy side, things quickly clear up and the transfer really shows off ace cinematographer Jeffrey Jur's pleasant, subdued photography superbly. Sharpness and detail are good, if not extraordinary.
Only a few minimal faults are occasionally present - nothing that will cause too much irritation. Slight edge enhancement is occasionally present durig the film, but it only appears in a handful of scenes. Compression artifacts aren't noticed, but there were a few little specks on the print used.
The film's warm color palette is presented well here, with nice saturation and no smearing or other issues. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural. This is a fine presentation from HBO.
SOUND: The film is presented by HBO in Dolby Digital 5.1, but this is clearly not a very active sound presentation. From the opening frames to the end credits, the surrounds are hardly used at all, even for the enjoyable score. Still, it's to be expected that this is dialogue-driven fare and dialogue is clean and clear here.
EXTRAS: Given the film's $200+ million gross, I'm surprised that more supplemental features were not prepared for the film's release. Aside from cast bios, we do get an audio commentary from actor John Corbett, actress/writer Nia Vardalos and director Joel Zwick. Vardalos often leads the commentary, but that's certainly a good thing, as she's quite entertaining and informative here. She talks about adding her own personal experiences into the story, working with the other actors and how the film went from a tiny indie to an enormous hit. Zwick jumps in with some production stories and comments about the film, while Corbett only occasionally adds some thoughts about his performance, the story and some experiences on-set.
Final Thoughts: I'm still not entirely sold on "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", but it's a good-hearted picture that has some solid laughs. HBO's DVD presents the film with very good video quality, decent audio and only minimal supplemental features. Still, recommended.