My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
Directed by: Kirk Jones
Premise: A sequel to the 2002 movie. Toula (Nia Vardalos) continues to cope with her extended family of Greeks. Her father (Michael Constantine) discovers that his marriage certificate was never signed and so the family plans a new wedding to make it official.
What Works: The original My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a sleeper hit in 2002 and the film became the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time. The appeal of My Big Fat Greek Wedding was primarily rooted in its cast of colorful characters and Toula’s mix of love and embarrassment about her family. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 comes fourteen years after the original film but it actually takes place further into the future than that since Toula’s daughter Paris, played by Elena Kampouris, is preparing to graduate high school. Despite the passage of time, very little has changed among the characters and for those who loved the original film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is an enjoyable reunion. Virtually all of the original cast members have returned for the follow up and the movie continues a lot of the bravado and wackiness that entertained viewers the first time around. One especially admirable aspect of both of the My Big Fat Greek Wedding films is the way that they represent this culture. When non-Anglo cultures are depicted in movies, they usually fall into one of two categories; either they are treated in a very somber and overly respectful way or they collapse into racist caricatures. My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel embrace the eccentricities of this family and their culture and it presents them with a sense of humor. The characters are more than stereotypes. They are full-fledged people with flaws, fears, and desires and there is a good heartedness at the center of this movie that redeems it from most of its other flaws.
What Doesn’t: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is largely a remake, repurposing the elements of the original picture and distributing them among three different storylines. Just as in the original film, the youngest daughter (Elena Kampouris) tries to break away from her Greek family and come to some kind of reconciliation with her heritage. At the same time, Toula and Ian (Nia Vardalos and John Corbett) have settled into the daily grind of work and domesticity and have lost track of the romance in their marriage. Those storylines are paralleled—and frequently overshadowed—by the relationship between grandparents Gus and Maria (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan) who must renew their vows and therefore retread the wedding preparations of the 2002 picture. This is a classic example of the “same but different” approach to Hollywood sequels. There is a resistance to doing anything that might alter the formula and the characters mostly remain intact from the beginning of this movie to the end. Notably, in 2003 Nia Vardalos created and starred in the short lived television series My Big Fat Greek Life, which was a spinoff of the original movie. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is very much like a television sitcom; the drama is forced, the conflicts are insular and easily solvable, and whatever happens the characters remain the same. The end of the movie even utilizes the television trope of the special guest star. Those qualities work for the sitcom format but they don’t work so well in a feature film. Despite how much is going on in this picture, and its modest ninety-four minute running time, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is very padded. None of the storylines are presented especially well. The drama is arbitrary and forced with conflicts resolved just as soon as they are established. Characters aren’t developed and the stakes are very low, eliminating the possibility of drama. It’s only the characters that save this movie.
Bottom Line: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 isn’t a great film. It isn’t even a particularly good one. But it is fun in many of the same ways that the original was and the likable characters and affable tone make it worth a look for fans of the 2002 movie.
Episode: #590 (April 10, 2016)