WHAT IS IT ABOUT this movie? After opening in only two local theaters on April 19, it's playing stronger than ever. The scrappy nuptial comedy is being compared to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Blair Witch Project as an indie crossover success. Produced for only $5 million, My Big Fat Greek Wedding has grossed over $80 million to date.
Did we critics miss something? I relegated it to a mere capsule review upon its opening, when our freelance writer Ian Hodder said it was a pleasant if sitcom-y picture. Yet its marathon legs finally compelled me to watch Wedding myself, and I discovered we were right the first time around. Though it's no critics' darling, Wedding has a hokey but endearing emotional core. The title fully describes Wedding's plot. There are no troublesome road bumps—aside from one wedding-day zit—to sidetrack the heroine (writer/star Nia Vardalos) from her journey to the altar. Wedding is a personal makeover movie sprung from daytime TV. It combines the ugly-duckling fable with the Cinderella fairy tale, as 30-year-old "frump girl" Toula wins the WASP prince (Seattle resident John Corbett) and placates her overbearing immigrant family.
In this way, Wedding is a hit because it's the only chick flick of '02 that delivers the goods. Its most poignant moment comes when the normal-looking, unglamorous Toula asks her beau, "Did you just say I'm beautiful?" Yes, he did.
Corny? Of course. But one ordinary woman's self-realization—plus an over-the-top wedding—can be preferable to the neuroses and self-hatred of Lovely & Amazing (this year's "smart" urban woman's flick). In an age when cultural difference has spawned horrific violence, Wedding is also the ultimate melting- pot movie. Greek, WASP, Jewish, Arabic—what's the difference? All you need to conquer America are contact lenses and a new hairdo. The rest will fall into place.