LARGER THAN LIFE CHARACTERS IN THIS FILM – At The Movies With Kasey
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was the second movie I ever reviewed for this paper, back when I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet, and my parents had to drive me to the theater. It was a charming sleeper hit that became the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time. I was one of its many fans, just as I was one of the many people skeptical that its sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 could be anything other than a corny disaster. I’m going to put myself out there with a probably unpopular opinion: I enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It wasn’t as charming or as funny as the original, but it was not a complete disaster, either.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 picks up when Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian’s (John Corbett) daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris) is seventeen and getting ready to apply to colleges. While Paris decides between out of state schools and Northwestern, her parents try not to pressure her to stay in Chicago. Meanwhile, their marriage has lost its spark as they struggle to take care of themselves, their daughter, and Toula’s aging father, Gus (Michael Constantine). While going through family documents, trying to prove that he is a direct descendant of Alexander the Great, Gus discovers that the marriage certificate from his wedding with Maria (Lainie Kazan) was never signed. At first, Maria thinks the clerical error is funny, but when Gus won’t propose to her, he unleashes years of hurt feelings. So, the whole family (Louis Mandylor, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Andrea Martin, and more) comes together to get Gus and Maria down the aisle again.
First, here is what I think the movie does well: Underneath the larger than life characters, there is a compelling story about a two marriages that need more care, a daughter trying to take care of everyone, and a young woman trying to figure out what she wants her future to look like. The conflict between Maria and Gus over their remarriage conveys complicated feelings about love, regret, and fulfillment, as Maria questions if she could have done more with her life, and Gus struggles to see things her way and express just how much he loves her. Meanwhile, there is a subtlety to the missing spark between Toula and Ian. The film treats their marriage with respect, not relying on cheap sex jokes or tawdry plots about infidelity. Instead, it weaves the story of them finding the romance with threads about caring for aging parents and rediscovering oneself after the kids are grown. It all comes off as authentic and respectful of experiences people have as they try to navigate a lifelong partnership. Finally, I appreciated that Paris was not a one-note bratty teen for the whole film, building up to her sudden revelation that being Greek is awesome and she should stay in Chicago for a boy. Instead, she is sometimes bratty and sometimes sweet, and is just trying to figure out what she wants and establish some boundaries, like many, many young people have to at her stage of life. The problem for her is not being Greek; the problem is just finding a way to leave the nest without crushing her parents.
The main drawbacks to My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 come when writer Nia Vardalos goes too hard for the joke. Especially towards the beginning of the movie, there was a hint of desperation—everything was too big, too obvious, trying too hard to be as endearing as the first film. There were plenty of moments that could have been edited out for this reason, and the film would have been funnier and would have resonated more emotionally. The group scenes with the whole family are the biggest weight on the film. In those scenes, the dialogue feels forced, in addition to the corny gags. Any time the whole family showed up someplace unexpected, the scene was bound to be a clunker. Once the cast broke off into pairs or subgroups, everything worked itself out. Often, in these smaller scenes, there was just enough of a reference back to the original movie to establish continuity and nostalgia without going too far. In these scenes, the cast is able to recapture the eccentric qualities of their characters and the family dynamic that made the first film such a hit.
For its emotional intelligence paired with its often clunky humor, I rate My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 a middling 3/5 stars.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 was written by Nia Vardalos and directed by Kirk Jones. It is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and runs 94 minutes.
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