30-year-old Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) is unwed and waitressing at her family’s restaurant. While her family loves to have her near, they worry about her state of singledom, most notably her father Gus (Michael Constantine) who is eager for Toula to marry a Greek boy and start a family. Feeling unfulfilled and lonely, Toula begins to take college courses and soon leaves the restaurant to work at her aunt’s travel agency. It’s there she meets and falls in love with Ian Miller (John Corbett). Their relationship blossoms at a passionate and steady pace until Ian proposes, but there is one problem… Ian is not Greek. Toula is worried about disappointing her family by marrying outside of her religion, while also finding herself nervous to introduce Ian to her extremely large, extremely nosy, and invasive Greek family.
When My Big Fat Greek Wedding was released, it became an instant box office smash and to this day remains the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time. It spawned a short-lived television series and a sequel released in 2016. But neither the series nor sequel came close to capturing the magic of the film that started it all. I remember watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding in the theater and thinking about what a delight it was. I loved learning about the ups and downs of another culture from someone who lived it and Nia Vardalos had written a sharp, genuinely funny script with a lot of heart.
Watching the movie again, so many years later, I’m relieved to say it holds up. Vardalos and Corbett’s chemistry is still on point and the majority of the jokes still land. I suppose I’m more or less over the “Ugly Girl gets a makeover to become Beautiful Girl” trope but thankfully the movie doesn’t dwell terribly long on that particular sequence. And I have to admit, there were times I felt like I was watching a network sitcom full of clichés and stereotypes, mostly when the movie focused on Toula’s large family gatherings. Anyone with a large family, or anyone with an intrusive family, will be able to relate to this film. At some point, while introducing Toula’s cousins to Ian’s parents, we discover the majority of them are named Nick. They’re all faceless, blending into the background, insignificant to the plot. Don’t we all feel this way sometimes, when lost in a sea of relatives at the latest family get together? Is it just me? Am I reading into this too much?
For me, My Big Fat Greek Wedding truly shines when Toula and Ian’s romance is front and center, followed closely by Toula’s complicated relationship with her parents, Gus and Maria.
Michael Constantine is so frustratingly lovable as Toula’s traditional Greek father. As someone who simply cannot understand the logic behind arranged marriages, or marrying within one’s religion, I found myself increasingly appalled for Toula as she sat through dinner after dinner with men that her father wanted to set her up with, even after being made aware of Toula’s relationship with Ian. The men were obviously wrong for Toula but it wasn’t about the right man, it’s was about his Greek heritage. It reminded me quite a bit of The Big Sick, another wonderful romantic comedy about breaking away from cultural and religious obligations and expectations in the name of love. Like The Big Sick, Toula and Ian eventually receive reluctance acceptance from her father but it’s not as satisfying or genuine as I wanted it to be.
It may lean too heavily on cultural stereotypes from time to time but at the end of the day, My Big Fat Greek Wedding remains a lovely romantic comedy that focuses on the importance of family as much as it does love.