My Big Fat Greek Wedding (PG)

Review by Jack Foley

AS wildly excessive as its extravagant title suggests, My Big Fat Greek Wedding has been one of the sleeper hits of the year in America, where audiences seem to have fallen for its saccharine-coated charm.

Based on the autobiographical one-woman show that its star, Canadian native Nia Vardalos, wrote and performed on-stage in 1998, the movie lovingly chronicles the obstacle-strewn path taken up the aisle taken by Vardalos’s frumpy 30-year-old, Toula, when she decides to marry a non-Greek man.

The obstacles in question are represented by Toula’s larger-than-life family, led by Michael Constantine’s fiercely patriotic father, her scheming mother and all manner of aunts and uncles, although it is clear from the beginning that this Cinderella tale will conclude with a romantic flourish.

Much of the fun, therefore, is to be found in Vardalos’s witty observations of all-things Greek, as well as the relish with which it is performed. Some of the digs at old-school European values and ideology particularly hit the mark.

But while the movie is enjoyable in places, and contains several wry observations throughout, it is also marred by its fairytale tendencies, which render it as sickly sweet as the icing on a wedding cake.

The men in the audience are likely to want to ditch this bride at the altar before too long, while the women (and this is, first and foremost, a chick flick) may also tire of the giddiness on show, particularly late on.

John (Sex and the City) Corbett’s high-school teacher, Ian, is also impossibly perfect, a bland, modern-day Prince Charming who doesn’t even have the decency to temporarily lose Cinderella before getting to the ball. Their relationship never once feels threatened, no matter how much Toula’s family interfere.

It is little wonder, however, that proceedings become so entwined in fantasy, as the film’s path to fruition bears all the hallmarks of a dream come true. It was produced by Tom Hanks (no stranger to sentimental outpourings), after his wife, Greek actress Rita Wilson, became so impressed with the one-woman show herself.

And in spite of its failings, there is much to admire, as this is clearly a labour of love for all concerned.

Vardalos makes an appealing, if unlikely, lead, while Constantine steals the show as the constantly bemused father, who runs the Dancing Zorba café in downtown Chicago, believes every word in the English language is derived from a Greek equivalent, and produces Windex as a cure for everything.

F or girls’ nights out only, this is likely to have hopeless romantics rushing to get to the box office on time.