Cornelia Tzana ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Comic Books Editor
Fourteen years after audiences first saw the miraculous effects of Windex on the big screen, Hollywood’s favorite Greek family returns to theaters in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was an unexpected success with a $241 million domestic gross profit, and multiple award nominations including an Oscar nomination for the screenplay and a SAG Award nomination for the wonderful ensemble of the film. The announcement of a sequel created mixed feelings for fans, who were both excited to see more of the characters on screen but also scared of the disappointment that often comes with sequels. Unfortunately, their fears were valid. Even though entertaining to watch, especially for viewers of Greek descent, the movie under delivers in a few different ways.
Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) are currently dealing with their angsty 17-year-old daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris) who feels as suffocated and embarrassed by her Greek family as Toula has all these years. In the meantime, Toula’s parents, Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan), realize that their marriage license was never signed by a priest before they left Greece for America. Gus is ready to get the problem resolved, but Maria takes the opportunity to re-evaluate her life as a wife.
Add Paris’ crush on her classmate, the coming-out of one of the characters, the appearance of Gus’ brother, whom he hasn’t seen for years, Toula’s effort to cope with her daughter going off to college, the waning romance between her and her husband, and the planning for Gus and Maria’s second wedding (which justifies the title). Not surprisingly, the story quickly gets too cluttered. And let’s not forget Gus’ quest to prove that he is a relative of Alexander the Great! All the different plotlines cause the movie to feel somewhat without a purpose.
The new film misses the elements and subtleties that made the original so charming and relatable. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was received exceptionally well by the audience because it captured moments that many people, and especially children of immigrant parents can relate to: the overbearing – and over-sharing – relatives, the difficulty of balancing one’s cultural roots and one’s future plans, and the realization that, despite all of their faults and quirks, family members only want the best for each other. The cultural aspects of the story served as a storytelling tool and reflected writer Nia Vardalos’ personal experiences with her Greek family. But they also gave the movie a distinct character and energy, which more than made up for the standard storyline of “forbidden love”. Viewers were present in all the little improvised moments and became part of the Portokalos family, and that made all the difference.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 fails to follow in the same footsteps. The characters are underused, even when they have plenty of screen time. A prime example of that is Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) who owns the many scenes she is a part of with her advice and too-much-information moments, yet is missing the witty lines that made her a favorite in the first place (“What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? Is ok… I make lamb”). John Stamos also makes a relatively pointless and short appearance. Others, like Toula’s grandma, the one who kept trying to run away from the Turks, are being overused, thus losing their purpose as short comedic elements. The fact that all of the old characters return, on top of all those newly introduced, certainly does not help the flow of the story.
The movie often seems too “scripted”. Vardalos relied too heavily on stereotypical sit-com gags resulting in a lack of the improvised gestures and under-the-breath comments of the characters that made the original feel so genuine and relatable. It also seems, strangely, not Greek enough. The same jokes are regularly repeated and there are many references to moments from the first movie that new audiences will miss, one of them being Gus’ obsession with the cure-all Windex.
The Greek language, scarce to begin with in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, is almost non-existent the second time around. The choice of having John Legend’s “All of Me” as the soundtrack to the traditional wedding ceremony also took away from the cultural aspects that could have given this sequel more character of its own.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 may not be an original concept or reach the quality of its predecessor but is an enjoyable and entertaining movie, albeit one you may not want to pay a theater ticket for. Despite the cluttered storyline, it is fun to see this family and their shenanigans again, no matter how sitcom-y those may be, and there are plenty of moments that will make the audience laugh and think, “oh those Greeks”.
And if you are Greek, you will definitely crave Yiayia’s spanakopita and the wedding ceremony baklava and wish you had some with you.
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