Weekly Video/DVD Picks

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Based on screenwriter-star Nia Vardalos's one-woman stage show, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was the sleeper hit of 2002, with its broad, fond satire of old-world family values in a newworld setting. The premise is pure sitcom — culture clash when uglyduckling daughter of ultra-Greek family has surprise romance with hunky non-Greek — and the supporting characters, in keeping with their stage-show origins, are painted in broad, cartoony strokes: overbearing but indulgent paterfamilias, tacitly manipulative matriarch, obnoxious brothers/cousins, etc.

Yet what it lacks in depth, it makes up in breadth of appeal, wholesome humor and affectionate celebration of tight-knit extended families, with all the tradition and history and turbulence that goes with them. Endearing eccentricities, such as Toula's father's improvisational Greek etymologies and his reliance on Windex for a range of external-use medicinal purposes, help humanize the characters.

From a moral-spiritual perspective, the film has two unfortunate flaws: It takes an indulgent view of the couple's premarital intimacy, and it depicts the groom-to-be's Greek Orthodox baptism in purely cultural terms.

Romero (1989)

The first feature from the Paulist Fathers' moviemaking division, Romero tells the true story of Latin America's best-known and most revered modern martyr, Archbishop Oscar Romero, a man whom Pope John Paul II described as a “zealous pastor who gave his life for his flock,” and at whose tomb in San Salvador the Holy Father has prayed.

Like Richard Burton in Becket, Raul Julia's Archbishop Romero is a man morally transformed by office and responsibility. Yet where Becket becomes a new man virtually overnight, Archbishop Romero goes through a more organic, gradual process, responding to specific crises.

Like The Mission, Romero raises the issue of “liberation theology” but rejects what is unacceptable in some forms of that school of thought: class warfare, guerrilla tactics, priests taking up arms.

Archbishop Romero was killed in the very act of offering the sacrifice of the Mass, almost in the act of elevating the Eucharistic elements. Simply by portraying this event essentially as it happened, Romero presents the archbishop's life and death as a sacrifice in union with the sacrifice of Christ.

Destry Rides Again (1939)

Destry Rides Again is a classic satirical actioncomedy Western, pitting mild-mannered lawman Jimmy Stewart, a reverse type of the two-fisted straightshooting John Wayne, against a lawless town full of swindlers and murderers where sheriffs wind up dead.

The son of a feared sharpshooter, Destry quickly becomes the laughingstock of Bottleneck when he steps off the stagecoach holding a parasol and canary cage for a female passenger.

But he bides his time and chooses his battles, and it's not long before he begins to make an impression on the wild and wooly town.

This twist was already a cliché when the movie was made, but Destry has its own tricks to keep things interesting.

Destry believes firmly in going by the letter of the law, and at times this puts him at odds with the old sheriff (Charles Winninger) who just wants to get the bad guys.

Marlene Dietrich stars as that other cliché, the bad girl with a heart of gold.