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Opa! Oh, No!

Universal Pictures
 94 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed byKirk Jones 
Starring: NIa Vardalos, John Corbett
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

In 2002, a small, low budget, ethnic romantic comedy called My Big Fat Greek Wedding caught the film world by surprise and became one of the longest running and most profitable movies ever made. Written by and starring Nia Vardalos, the film was a celebration of Greek ethnic pride and sense of family, combined with typical romantic comedy complications and a 30ish woman’s anxieties about being single. Vardalos also based many of the events and anecdotes in the film on her own family and friends, such as her father’s obsession with Windex as a cure-all for whatever ails you.


My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a huge hit, ranking in the box office Top 10 for nearly a year after its rather unheralded release. But when a TV version of the film starring Vardalos and most of the supporting cast was cancelled after seven episodes, it appeared that the thrill was gone and that audiences had lost their affection for the fictional Portokalos family. Nonetheless, Universal greenlighted a sequel, Vardalos wrote the screenplay, and now, 14 years later, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 hits the screens. Sadly, it might as well be titled My Big Fat Greek Mediocrity.


Vardalos returns as Toula, who has now been married for 18 years to handsome school principal Ian (John Corbett), and they have a daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris), who’s thinking about going off to college, much to her mother’s dismay. Toula would prefer that Paris stay in Chicago. Paris, however, wants to get as far away as possible from her well-meaning but massively omnipresent extended family, who spend all their time socializing with each other and interfering in each other’s personal lives.


Those who are unfamiliar with or, like me, have forgotten the details of the original movie will likely find themselves lost for a good bit of Greek Wedding 2. Most of the original cast is on hand, including Mama Maria (Lainie Kazan) and Papa Gus (Michael Constantine) and a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins. The screenplay either assumes viewers will still remember the original or just doesn’t care whether they do, since there is virtually no character development, and everyone pretty much looks and dresses alike in highly stereotypical outfits.


There is a wedding in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and, fortunately, it’s not young Paris tying the knot (she’s got more than enough problems as it is). Instead, it’s Gus and Maria, after they discover that the priest never signed their wedding certificate 50 years earlier in Greece, and that, therefore, they’ve never been legally married. Instead of just going to city hall to rectify the problem, the family insists on throwing another lavish wedding. But there’s a complication, as the two keep getting into conveniently arising sitcom squabbles that have Maria questioning whether she really wants to go through with the marriage or just give Gus the heave ho.


I doubt that one single person in the audience has the slightest doubt whether the wedding will actually take place, but Vardalos and director Kirk Jones seem to be grasping at straws here in an effort to come up with entire movie worth of storylines. So, the film trots out one sitcom cliché after another. There’s booze and drunkenness jokes, PG-13 sex jokes, addled elderly relative jokes, Greek ethnic jokes, and, most of all, 30-people-hanging-around-in-one-crowded-scene jokes. Some of these are funny, but far too many of them get repeated far too many times, like the Windex gag, which outlived its shelf life somewhere between the two movies.


If the first movie was loud and boisterous, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 dials the noise factor up to 11. Every scene is in-your-face, crude, sitcom humor. Storylines like Gus’s long lost estranged brother showing up occupy the screen for a minute or two and then disappear, leaving nothing more than one extra actor in the inevitable post-wedding giant party. What quickly gets lost in all the hubbub are the things that made the first movie special, the sweetly vulnerable Toula who finally find her dream man. Instead, Vardalos and Corbett completely disappear or get shouted out for large chunks of the movie (their only big moment is yet another sitcom chestnut about the married couple finding it impossible to be alone to have a romantic moment).


The one character who does emerge with a semblance of a storyline is Paris, the only new character in the mix. No, it’s not her frustration at seeing her family lurking behind every doorstep. Instead, it’s the sweet prom date she has with a young man (Alex Wolff) who makes her realize just how special her extended family is. It’s only in a handful of scenes like this one, and in some of the quieter moments between Maria and Gus, that Vardalos is able to recapture the spirit of the original movie.


It’s hard to be too hard on Vardalos, since Greek Wedding has always been an extremely personal project for her. That personal connection made the original movie a hit with all types of ethnic audiences who could identify with the characters and, above all, the sense of family. That sense of family is still there in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 but director Kirk Jones rubs it in the audience’s faces with the strident, bombastic tone. Vardalos’ script is no help either, since she really has nothing fresh to say and her comedic stylings resemble, … well, jokes from a TV series that lasted seven episodes. Greek Wedding 2 is another example of a long-in-the-making sequel that simply has no reason for being and diminishes the memory of the original movie. This is one wedding that definitely should have been postponed.

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My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016) on IMDb