My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

(In theaters, August 2002) The surprise hit of summer 2002 is nothing more (or less) than a deliberate attempt at giving a certain audience exactly what it wants. As such, it works really well: Writer/star Nia Vardalos delivers a romance, a family reconciliation tale as well as a duckling-to-swan transformation. The romance might be the film’s least impressive element, especially when compared to the impressive evolution of the protagonist. This isn’t simply a Rachel-Leigh-Cook-with-glasses metamorphosis, mostly because no one pulls any punches in representing the “before” state; baggy clothes, thick glasses, stringy hair, blank stare and makeup-enhanced face lines, Vardalos throws herself in the pre-transformation role with abandon and emerges as an even more adorable woman at the end of the process. That’s when the romance kicks in, but it’s not nearly as interesting as a process by which we discover the eccentricities of this particular Greek family. It’s a welcome glimpse in an ethnic group that’s long been neglected by Hollywood. (Expect a surge of imitators in the next few years.) It ends exactly as we think it will; no surprises, but good warm fuzzy feelings. It’s not a raucous comedy; the pacing is only a-joke-a-minute and the film wouldn’t have felt out of place as a television movie-of-the-week. But it’s worth seeing, especially if you’re stuck in a situation where you have to see a movie with a wide audience; this will do for the whole family.

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