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My Big Fat Greek Wedding: 10th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) movie poster My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Theatrical Release: April 19, 2002 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Joel Zwick / Writer: Nia Vardalos

Cast: Nia Vardalos (Toula Portokalos), John Corbett (Ian Miller), Lainie Kazan (Maria Portokalos), Michael Constantine (Gus Portokalos), Gia Carides (Nikki), Louis Mandylor (Nick Portokalos), Bess Meisler (Yiayia), Bruce Gray (Rodney Miller), Fiona Reid (Harriet Miller), Ian Gomez (Mike), Jayne Eastwood (Mrs. White), Andrea Martin (Aunt Voula), Joey Fatone (Angelo)

Buy My Big Fat Greek Wedding from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • DVD • Instant Video

My Big Fat Greek Wedding has many noteworthy achievements to its name. It is the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time. It was the highest grossing independent film ever until The Passion of the Christ overtook it two years later.
It is by far the highest grossing film to never have topped the box office for a single weekend. All these distinctions are related to the movie's unprecedented public reception, which saw it playing in theaters for just one week shy of a full year. In the history of entertainment, no other movie has embodied the phrase "word of mouth hit" as wholeheartedly and, with theatrical runs growing shorter all the time, none is likely to recreate its breakout success on such a large scale.

Even the most lucrative of indie films can only dream of the kind of impact that this little $5 million movie had. It was released in just over 100 theaters by IFC, a studio whose two biggest hits prior (The Business of Strangers and Together; what, never heard of them?) had each grossed just over $1 million. Written by and starring Nia Vardalos, an actress whose highest-profile work had been single-episode guest spots on ABC sitcoms "The Drew Carey Show", "Boy Meets World", and "Two Guys and a Girl" (nιe "Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place"), Greek opened in mid-April before the busy summer season, away from the end-of-year awards blitz, and as far as you can get from the fall season of intelligent films looking to get noticed. While the 108-theater count was the largest IFC had given to any of its releases, of which this numbered twelfth, the timing and width suggested little commercial potential for this flavorful family ensemble piece.

It opened in 20th place with a weekend gross of just under $600 thousand, a far, far cry from the concurrent debuts of The Mummy spin-off The Scorpion King and even the Sandra Bullock flop Murder by Numbers. Those films would be but distant memories by the time that Greek was blossoming from a surprise hit to a full-fledged phenomenon. The movie slowly but surely continued to expand, almost always falling just outside of the top ten. In early August, Greek broke in, ranking ninth in just 657 theaters. From there, it kept on rising and adding more theaters. It peaked on Labor Day weekend with a formidable $14.8 M draw that placed it second only to M. Night Shyamalan's blockbuster Signs. Greek passed the $100 M domestic mark on Friday, September 13th and simply refused to die, its theater count eventually crossing the 2,000 mark. It held onto a Top 10 rank right up through Thanksgiving week. When this historic run finally ended the following April, Greek had grossed a mind-blowing $241 million (the equivalent of $329 M at today's ticket prices), more than Signs and all but four of that year's franchise tentpoles (the first Spider-Man and second entry to the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Star Wars prequel series).

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" stars Nia Vardalos as Toula Portokalos, the frumpy seating hostess of her family's restaurant. Ian Miller (John Corbett) shoots a smile and waves a wrap outside the window of the newly made-over Toula's travel agency.

Any movie displaying that kind of holding power must have done something right, and the astounding showing suggested that Greek was the most highly recommended film ever. It remains remarkable and odd that this low-concept, no-star movie that would have typically gotten a blink and miss engagement in metropolitan cultural centers could strike it rich both nationwide and abroad. Its feel-good appeal is unmistakable. Older moviegoers and immigrants no doubt must have found it especially palatable. With a PG rating, it was suitable for practically all ages and moral codes. In short, it was a crowd-pleaser: simple, fairly short, and a bit corny, but highly accessible and likable. It's an independent film possessing mainstream sensibilities. With nothing edgy or too offbeat, there was no limit to the audience it could delight and enough to possibly return for more.

Adapted from the one-woman stage show that Vardalos largely drew from her life, Greek stars the writer as Toula Portokalos, a second generation Greek-American. The seating hostess at Dancing Zorba's, her family's Chicago restaurant, Toula is 30, which in the eyes of her traditional father Gus (Michael Constantine) means she should be married to a nice Greek man and building a family of her own. Toula gets a makeover to dial down her frumpiness, begins attending college to study computers, and starts working in her aunt's travel agency.

One day, a handsome man walks past her storefront and shoots her a smile. Such an improbable encounter occurs only in the movies, as do men like Ian Miller (John Corbett), a great guy with a noticeable lack of faults. It's not the first time his and Toula's paths have crossed, but this time, they connect and perfect movie romance ensues. Toula tells her family she's taking a pottery class, but in fact she's spending these nights with Ian, a teacher with a kind heart and a warm smile. Before long, Ian proposes. He's fallen head over heels for Toula and now he gets to discover her large, loud, proud Greek family. Not only does Ian accept their craziness, but he even converts to the Greek Orthodox Church and agrees to get married there on the Portokaloses' terms. While a bit overwhelmed, his mild-mannered parents likewise accept the plan with no objections.

Though he has misgivings at first, Gus Portokalos (Michael Constantine) comes to welcome his son-in-law with open arms. Something shocks the Portokalos women (Nia Vardalos, Lainie Kazan, and Bess Meisler).

The film's romance is storybook and far-fetched. The conflict is tidy and surmountable. Nearly every scene boils down to "Look at the big, crazy Greek family!" as they eat lamb, down shots, and shout "Opa!" And yet, it works. Especially in romantic comedies, the biggest stars and the characters they play tend to be all-American types, whose heritage could be anything and rarely matters. Greek reminds us that America is a melting pot, full of people whose parents or grandparents relocated here from abroad to experience liberties and opportunities. With each new generation, those people lose a bit of their heritage and look and sound more like a typical American. But certain traditions and characteristics withstand, especially in numbers, which the Portokaloses have.

Many can relate to the film's authentic family atmosphere, whether from the perspective of Toula, her parents, or outsider Ian. Even if the flavor somehow strikes you as altogether unfamiliar, it will still entertain, much like any comedy with bold characters and strong dynamics. There are enough salient real life details (like Gus' belief in the healing value of Windex and penchant for finding the Greek etymology of every English word) to overlook the formulaic design, merely gentle laughs, and Ian's lack of personality.

It's a movie that most will qualify as a good time. It doesn't go beyond that. But wholesome, flavorful, reasonably intelligent, good time romantic comedies are hard enough to find that this one stood out. It's a bit of a throwback, its design recalling Frank Capra and its score sounding like it's straight out of the late 1980s. At the same time, it's in tune with the present-day and its content retains relevance, even ten years later, as minimally used *NSYNC singer's Joey Fatone's "and" credit prompts head-scratching.

Taking Toula's (Nia Vardalos) family in stride, Ian (John Corbett) lets out an "Opa!"

Most critics shared the public's enthusiasm for the movie, without overstating its charms or exalting it as great art. The movie got exactly what it should have from the Academy Awards: one nomination for original screenplay, which it lost to Pedro Almodσvar's Talk to Her. The film also received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical and Vardalos for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical,
which it lost to Chicago and its star Renιe Zellweger.

The decade since My Big Fat Greek Wedding won over the world has proven its success to be comparable to lightning in a bottle. In between the Golden Globes and the Oscars, with the film still playing in hundreds of theaters, the movie became a traditional multi-camera CBS sitcom created by and starring Vardalos, with Corbett's role recast and renamed. It would be cancelled after just seven episodes. No one could blame the 40-year-old Vardalos, riding high on personal success, for agreeing to that spin-off and caving to the network's laugh track demands.

Her career since hasn't been all that peachy. Her follow-up effort as writer and star, 2004's drag queen musical theatre comedy Connie and Carla, got mixed reviews and bombed at the box office. That was the last we saw of her until 2009's My Life in Ruins pitched itself as a comeback vehicle and spiritual successor to Greek only to bomb and draw critical scorn. That same year, the romantic comedy I Hate Valentine's Day reunited Vardalos and Corbett, with Vardalos also writing and directing. Despite their history, IFC released it in just three theaters, where it grossed a measly $11 thousand on icy reviews. Vardalos has since resigned to television guest spots and a direct-to-video American Girl movie. Tom Hanks, a producer of Greek along with wife Rita Wilson, reteamed with Vardalos on last year's dud Larry Crowne, which saw them sharing screenplay credit.

If Vardalos couldn't emerge from Greek with a prosperous career, it is little surprise that no one else involved could either. Director Joel Zwick got to helm Fat Albert, after which he was sent straight back to the world of sitcoms, where he had worked for the previous 25 years. John Corbett continues to do most of his work on television as well. Supporting players who made big impressions here (Australians Louis Mandylor and Gia Carides, "SCTV"'s Andrea Martin) have remained scarce and/or obscure. Two of the most recent stops on Joey Fatone's acting career have been Beethoven's Big Break and Jersey Shore Shark Attack.

Nonetheless, they'll all always have My Big Fat Greek Wedding, an indelible claim to fame that will linger in the box office records for the indefinite future. It may not be a masterpiece, but it is something. Last week, HBO Home Entertainment remembered that something by finally releasing an alternative to the film's widely-owned, low-priced DVD with the 10th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack we now review.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding: 10th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic and Also 1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), DTS 2.0 (Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Greek
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed, Reflective Cardboard Slipcover
Still available as DVD ($5.98 SRP; February 11, 2003) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

On Blu-ray, My Big Fat Greek Wedding looks quite grainy in places. Most of the time, though, the 1.78:1 presentation is good, boasting fine clarity and adequate sharpness. The film's ordinary visuals couldn't have factored much into its success, but Blu-ray gains some detail over the adequate recycled DVD. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is pretty unremarkable as well. Dialogue is crisp and intelligible throughout, but there isn't much else to notice or appreciate. Subtitles are offered once again in English, French, Spanish, and -- of course -- Greek. A 2.0 DTS Spanish dub is gained.

"A Look Back" reunites John Corbett and Nia Vardalos for the first time since "I Hate Valentine's Day." Before the movie, Nia Vardalos performed her life as a one-woman stage show in the 1990s, clips of which appear in the new retrospective.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Despite the film's phenomenal box office success and surely stellar sales numbers, HBO never felt compelled to give My Big Fat Greek Wedding an improved DVD version. The one and only DVD it got included cast biographies and an audio commentary. The Blu-ray loses the biographies, keeps the commentary, and adds a couple of exciting new extras.

First up, "A Look Back at My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (29:05, HD) lives up to its title, as Nia Vardalos reflects on her big fat film success.

She recalls how her stage show (which is generously excerpted) was picked for film treatment by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks (who are seen in 2002 interviews) and the real life aspects the shaped the film. A little before the halfway point, she is joined by Corbett. Their fond memories are complemented by raw takes, outtakes, and deleted bits, which are presented windowboxed in a lower than HD resolution. This fine piece concludes with footage and talk of the stars' national publicity tour, with clips of appearances from radio shows to the Indy 500. You couldn't ask for a better retrospective than this, although one wonders why none of the cast mates or crew join the leads.

Next up come five deleted scenes (5:00, lower-quality HD), which are short and unremarkable. They include Toula getting promoted to seating hostess and talking with cousin Nikki (Gia Carides) who has filled her old position. Also, Angelo (Joey Fatone) gets a VCR box full of meat and cracks a joke at Nikki's husband. Nothing major and none of the odds and ends compiled in the featurette.

Finally, we get the 2002 audio commentary by Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, and director Joel Zwick. Vardalos dominates the commentary, confirming the Greek culture and real-life incidents that pervade the film. Zwick adds some praise for the cast and extras, acknowledges production contributions. Corbett mostly remains quiet, chiming in only to praise co-stars or confess his reluctance at some scenes. It's a pretty enjoyable and personal track, coming from relative newcomers at a time when the format was not quite a standard inclusion.

It's a shame that the movie's original trailer still is not included.

The illustrious career of *NSYNC singer turned actor Joey Fatone is detailed in his two-page Cast Biography. The DVD's old main menu still trumps the plainer Blu-ray's menu.

The DVD included here is the same one first released in February 2003 given a new label. It includes multi-page biographies of eight actors and the audio commentary alongside full screen and widescreen versions of the film. Also, hidden on the main menu, you can find access to a page of DVD credits.

The digital copy, branded HBO Select by the studio, manifests in an insert directing you to a website to download the film in iTunes, Vudu, or UltraViolet via Flixster formats. It gives you until November 30, 2014 to redeem these.

The Blu-ray's ordinary, scored menu plays clips from the film with a dreamy white border. The DVD's more creative menus place their listings on the pages of some kind of wedding album, with stills or clips adorning the opposite side. My first taste of HBO Blu-rays reveals they need some work in the authoring department, as this disc neither supports bookmarks nor manages to resume playback, a nuisance that is heightened by the fact that opening disclaimers and logos are unskippable.

The uncut blue keepcase is topped by a sleek, slick cardboard slipcover, which is spruced up with foil and extensive embossing and slightly shorter than the case below. Besides the digital copy insert, there is a small notice defending the Blu-ray's manufacturing and advising you may need a firmware update to enjoy it.

Spoiler alert: there is a happy ending for Ian (John Corbett) and Toula (Nia Vardalos).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With its long, lucrative box office run and any potential fallout from it now distant memories, My Big Fat Greek Wedding has settled into its reputation as a good, not great film. Occupying the thin line between mainstream and indie, this crowd-pleasing romantic comedy remains flawed but fun and as widely appealing as any modern movie.

While it seems like the film's 2003 DVD is already owned by everyone and their mother, HBO has put together a solid 10th Anniversary combo pack with a satisfactory feature presentation, a good new retrospective, and plenty of value and versatility for the price. Is this something you need to buy on Blu-ray? Probably not. But it is a solid upgrade and an even better first time buy that could lend itself to repeat viewings.

Buy My Big Fat Greek Wedding from Amazon: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD / Instant Video

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John Corbett: Ramona and Beezus • Tombstone | Michael Constantine: The Hustler | Ian Gomez: Cougar Town: The Complete First Season
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Reviewed November 18, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2002 Gold Circle Films, Playtone, Home Box Office, MPH Entertainment,
2012 HBO Home Entertainment, and 2003 HBO DVD. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.