-By David Noh

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In the warmhearted tradition of Goodbye, Columbus, Lovers and Other Strangers, Made for Each Other, Moonstruck and True Love, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a heavily ethnic, family-driven romantic comedy. But instead of the usual Italian or Jewish flavor, this one is pure Greek. It's written by and stars Nia Vardalos, who plays Toula Portokaios, the dutiful if frustrated daughter of ultra-chauvinistic restaurant owner Gus (Michael Constantine) and his equally strong wife, Maria (Lainie Kazan). As Nia says, "Nice Greek girls are supposed to do three things in life: marry Greek boys, make Greek babies and feed everyone until the day they die." Only Nia has gone and fallen in love with Ian (John Corbett), a high-school teacher who is decidedly not Greek. Family uproar ensues.

As directed by Joel Zwick, and produced by Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson (who's Greek), this is a genial romp, painless but none too exciting. The best moments come from its wry observations about Greek traditions, like the one previously quoted, and certain experienced cast members. Constantine hilariously dominates every scene he's in, the way Akim Tamiroff used to, with his overbearing cultural pride and macho cluelessness. (His favorite game is insistently proving how all words stem from the Greek, even "kimono.") Kazan has a convincing, broad-faced resemblance to Vardalos and gets her laughs, too, mostly at the expense of her husband's bloated ego, while Andrea Martin adds her distinctive talents as a noisome aunt. Bedecked in gold, with a flamboyant gray streak in her pitch-black bouffant and skintight clothing, she epitomizes a kind of suburban ethnic glamour common to all Mediterranean femmes of a certain age.

It's when the film focuses on the younger characters that it loses steam. Ian, with his pretty mane of hair, is a bit too much of a romance-novel wish fulfillment for Toula, falling head over heels for this unassuming mouse at first glance. They then spend too much time exchanging thoughts like, "I love you because I came alive when I met you." Vardalos is ingratiating, but ultimately not distinctive enough to truly hold your interest. A crazy Greek grandmother, dressed like a crow, who thinks all people are bloodthirsty Turks out to harm her is one the script's lamer, too-predictable notions. As Toula's cousin, NSync member Joey Fatone makes another stab at a movie career, here proving that, hey, Greek or Italian, a goumba is a goumba is a goumba.

--David Noh

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