My Big Fat Greek Wedding hit like a tidal wave in 2002, a romantic comedy that began in the distant horizon as a one-woman play before it swelled into a $360 million behemoth and crashed into box offices unawares. Fourteen years later, writer and star Nia Vardalos tries for a second big splash but winds up with a sequel that never gains momentum.
The original story focused on Toula’s (Vardalos) need, or rather her father’s need for her, to get married, specifically to a nice Greek man. She did, though that nice Greek man turned out to be a decidedly non-Greek John Corbett. Now one existential crisis gives way to another as Toula and Ian’s (Corbett) teenage daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), prepares for college, and Toula wrestles with an empty nest and a sparkless marriage. Her troubles are compounded by her parents’ (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan) discovery that they were never officially married, and unable to live in sin, they make arrangements for another wedding. Vardalos finds conflict where there isn’t any; after fifty years together, you’d think a second wedding would be mere formality, but Toula’s mother takes the opportunity to attack her supposed husband for his insincerity and a half century of grievances.
The movie vacillates between these storylines with a harried Toula being the one constant. Her awkwardness slides into desperation though as she tries to keep her daughter close at hand. A college fair for Paris turns out to be a family affair when Toula tells a relative, and they all take turns convincing her to stay in Chicago and bullying a representative from Northwestern. Scenes like these feel forced, an effort to match or even top the madness of the first film. But too often, the movie just reverts to old jokes. You’ve literally seen it all before: Windex will fix anything and every word in any language can be traced to its Greek origins. Before, there was charm in the quirkiness and specificity of Toula’s Greek family, despite diving into clichés about immigrants and cross-cultural marriages. The novelty wears off the second time around, and even the father’s insistence that he is a direct descendent of Alexander the Great seems like overkill.
Likewise, the family reunion isn’t necessary, nice as it is to see everyone back together. Toula has enough going on that she doesn’t need a chorus of loud cousins and noisy kids backing her up. Most of the characters aren’t given much to do anyway; cousin Nikki’s big moment is setting everyone’s hair on the wedding day and cousin Angelo is there to announce he’s gay. Even Ian is an afterthought, pleasant as ever but used more as a placeholder than the main man in Toula’s life. There’s no fire to heat their strained marriage for better or worse, and the one relationship that could have enriched the sequel, between Toula and her aging parents, doesn’t dig deeply enough into the children as caretakers dynamic.
Prod: Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson
Dir: Kirk Jones
Writer: Nia Vardalos
Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Elena Kampouris, Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine, Andrea Martin, Louis Mandylor, Gia Carides, Gerry Mendicino, Joey Fatone, Alex Wolff, John Stamos, Rita Wilson
Time: 94 min
Country: United States