My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some suggestive material
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Nia Vardalos, Michael Constantine, Elena Kampouris, Lanie Kazan, John Corbett, Andrea Martin, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Louis Mandylor, Alex Wolff, Rita Wilson, John Stamos
Small role: Rob Riggle
Director: Kirk Jones
Screenplay: Nia Vardalos
Review published March 27, 2016
One wonders why it took nearly fourteen years to produce a sequel to the number one romantic comedy of all time. Perhaps the lack of success for the 2003 TV spinoff sitcom on CBS, "My Big Fat Greek Life", a flop which couldn't make it past seven episodes, had been thought of as a sign that viewers thought of the word-of-mouth sleeper hit as a one-and-done kind of property. The original My Big Fat Greek Wedding wasn't an instant success, but it did have some powerful legs, earning more in its 20th weekend at the box office than in its first ten weekends of release combined.
Screenwriter and star Nia Vardalos (My Life in Ruins) had based the modest independent (earning over $350 million worldwide on only a $5 million budget) on her stage show, which used lots of autobiographical material that would make it into the film, spruced up, of course, with comedic takes on her real-life events. That film features Vardalos playing Toula, a younger Greek-American woman (Vardalos is Canadian in real life) who would eventually marry non-Greek Ian (Corbett, The Boy Next Door), with Toula's very traditional family taking a very long time to come around to her desire to marry someone outside of their origins.
Now happily married (though the romantic spark has largely gone), Toula and Ian have a 17-year-old daughter, Paris (Kampouris, Labor Day), who is already getting pressure from Toula's father, Gus (Constantine, The Hustler), to find a Greek boyfriend, get married and start having babies. Toula is more concerned with a different life milestone for Paris -- college -- and the family desperately hopes that the young woman will choose to stay near family in Chicago by attending Northwestern University. As the family generally gives hugs until suffocating, Paris has begun mulling over being as far away as possible from the most overbearing family one could never hope for. Meanwhile, in an ironic twist of fate, Gus gets pressure from his family to marry when it is discovered that he and his wife of fifty years, Maria (Kazan, Pixels), were never officially wed due to the marriage certificate remaining unsigned by the priest. Gus thinks its just a formality that can be settled with a quick jaunt to city hall, but Maria, thinking he didn't do it right the first time around, wants him to earn the privilege of being her husband yet again with a real marriage proposal and proper formal wedding.
While My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a middling comedic work that feels more like an extended sitcom episode than a full-fledged feature release, it will likely be considered generally entertaining for those who love the 2002 film and want to see a reunion movie of sorts. Many of the jokes are merely cultural-stereotype callbacks to those many enjoyed from Oscar-nominated screenplay of the first film, with Gus still using Windex to fix everything and thinking everything can be traced back to Greek origins. Your tolerance on how much you welcome a rehash of these gags will likely depend on how much you want to slip comfortably back to these characters and their situations. The jokes are broad and obvious, with situations contrived and supporting characters merely existing to bring in a certain kind of joke that they repeat whenever they appear. Whereas the first film is self-contained, this sequel seems to be angling toward a franchise, with young Paris becoming the obvious next candidate for a big Greek wedding should Part 2 prove successful.
While Vardalos' belated follow-up is easy to consume, it's also just as easy to forget, and given that it doesn't offer anything truly new that hadn't already been done in the 2002 original, it's really only of interest for those who just want the comfort of a simple diversion featuring beloved characters willing to get together for one more go-around for the fans. Just as one of the running jokes is that Toula, the woman who was once embarrassed by her doting family, has grown to become just like them, so too has My Big Fat Greek Wedding turned from a film that younger generations could enjoy in making fun of their busybody parents into a franchise with jokes so corny and clichéd that only one's parents might enjoy them.
©2016 Vince Leo