Halfway through my book on The Evils of Consumer Culture I got in the car, went to the mall, ate at Taco Time and watched America’s #1 movie, an utterly predictable piece of formulaic Hollywood “feel good” entertainment that I nonetheless enjoyed quite a bit. Take that, you socialist hippies!
[Dear Mom: please don’t read this paragraph, thanks. Love, Matt.] I’ve known I would wind up seeing My Big Fat Greek Wedding for some time, as I had long since picked it out as my current Mom Movie. Back before I learned the value of pre-selecting Mom Movies, my parents would sometimes propose a Movie Night, and my mother would inevitably suggest we see the romantic comedy du jour: Notting Hill or The Wedding Planner or whatever. This puts me in a ticklish position, as the only thing more painful that snubbing your own mother is actually sitting through Kate & Leopold. So one day I decided to get all proactive ‘n shit. I started keeping a mental list of all the movies that I thought both my mother and I would enjoy — or, rather, the films I was certain my mother would love and that I thought I could endure. And Greek Wedding has held the title of #1 Mom Movie ever since Ebert and The Other Guy, Mr. Roper Or Something, both gave it their ringing endorsement. So when the family went to the movies last weekend, Greek Wedding was a foregone conclusion.
Usually I don’t like to discuss movie plots in my reviews since my abhorrence of spoilers borders on the pathological, but, honestly, if you have seen even one “romantic comedy” in this lifetime then you already know every key element My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Boy meets girl, girl feels inadequate, girl embarks on a campaign of self-improvement, boy meets girl again and is smitten, boy and girl decide to get hitched, and everything would be coming up roses were it not for that wacky, wacky Greek family! And yet — somehow! — you have this crazy suspicion that everything is going to turn out okay in the end. [**MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD!!**: you’re right.]. In fact, as soon as you figure out what a character in the film Really Wants — not what they say they want, mind you, but what they capital-R Really Want — you know they will get it before the film is through. Dad says he wants his daughter to marry another Greek, but he Really just wants her to be happy; daughter says she wants to elope, but she Really wants to spend this special occasion with her family; and so on.
Yeah, I know — I can hear your eyes rolling from here. So how could I — a guy how insists he loves Mulholland Drive for it’s nonlinear chronology and not just the hot girl-on-girl action — possibly enjoy this? Simple: whereas most screenwriters would have lazily plugged some unremarkable dialogue into this generic framework and called it good, Nia Vardalos (writer and star of Greek Wedding) instead opted to pack this blazingly unoriginal storyline with barrels of genuinely witty banter and a even a couple of hilarious sight gags. Trust me: no one tried harder to dislike Greek Weddings than I, but after 40 minutes and my third belly-laugh I had to admit that I was liking it just fine.
It’s no Memento, that’s for sure. And even knowing what I know now I wouldn’t have opted to see it without a a matriarch in tow. But it was about as good as a Romantic Comedy gets, and, frankly, more entertaining than whatever pretentious hunk of art-house crap I would have dragged the tribe to if the decision had been left to me. (Which is why the decision if never left to me — not since Mulholland Drive, anyway.) Judged on it’s own merits it gets maybe 3/5 stars, tops, but put a Mom in the seat next to you and My Big Fat Greek Wedding becomes a freakin’ Citizen Kane.
P.s.: I saw this film with my Ma-In-Law, despite the fact that the Emergency Mom Movie is kept in reserve for my mother. When I spoke to Ma Baldwin a few moments ago and guility confessed that I had gone to see “Greek Wedding” without her, she replied “Oh that’s okay, I’ve already seen it three times.”
P.p.s. I am now taking nominations for my next “Mom Movie”.
P.p.p.s. Anyone who suggests “Sweet Home Alabama” will be banned.