Anyone who’s grown up in a large family, especially one of eastern European descent, knows that family means never having a moment alone. This is the life in which Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos, who also wrote the story) grows up in the charming comedy, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

Paul Wong
Just married. In Greek.
(Courtesy of IFC Films)

Toula’s family owns Dancing Zorba’s, a Greek Restaurant, where she works, as expected. Her father is a zealous patriot for Greece, with a Greek flag on his garage, statues on the lawn, everything but the actual Parthanon. Like all true comedic patriarchs, he is really subservient to his wife, Maria, a bit more understanding to Toula’s tension between her Greek heritage and American lifestyle.

When Toula meets Ian Miller (John Corbett, “Sex and the City”), an attractive English teacher, she’s smitten. They fall in love, much to the dismay of her father. After all, if he’s not Greek, he’s not worthy of his daughter.

The task of bringing the stubborn father up to date with her culture, not to mention dealing with Ian’s ultra-WASPy parents, makes Toula nervous. The culture clash isn’t easy to overcome.

The charm lies in the description of growing up in Toula’s world. An ugly duckling as a child, she gains independence by taking computer courses at college – another idea of which her father disapproved. From her quiet transformation into a mature Greek-American (heck, any ethnicity could be inserted) to her insanely large family (who else could say that their family includes N’Sync’s Joey Fatone and multiple Nicks?), Toula’s world is nothing less than frantic.

Vardalos was discovered by Rita Wilson, and steered toward Tom Hanks, serving as producer. Thus far, the $5 million comedy has pulled in over $80 million thanks to word of mouth sales and has become the independent film hit of the summer. With a magnificent cast and a wonderfully comic story, Vardalos and company have managed to instill a little bit of clean ethnic fun into this summer’s film choices.

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