Let me preface by saying I really, really wanted to love this movie. The first My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which I reviewed for Cinefilles almost four years ago on the 10th Anniversary, was light, fun and affirming for second-generation, hyphenated Canadians everywhere. But the romance has now faded into grudging complacency and redundancy.
The sequel, written once again by star and real Greek girl Nia Vardolos, brings back every beloved character from the first movie in all their suffocating goofiness, except somehow everyone is just a bit more shrill this time around and just a bit more tired. Toula (Vardolos) and Ian (John Corbett) are still married, but the chemistry between them has faded to a roommate-like quality. It’s hard to believe that Toula, finally having found some freedom and a hot husband at the end of the first film, would fall into her old patterns again, especially with only one kid who’s almost fully grown. Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) agrees with this and tries to get Toula to spice things up again with some red satin lingerie. And that one example pretty much sums up all the jokes and gags in this sequel.
I saw the movie with about 30 other Hellenic-Canadian women of various generations, and although the grandmas beside me cackled at every joke, they told me afterwards that it wasn’t as good as the first one. What’s more my daughter, who’s not much younger than Toula’s, said she couldn’t relate to the film at all. While grandpa Gus is pressuring Paris (Elena Kampouris) to find a Greek husband at 17 years old, most of the grandparents she knows are pushing their grandchildren to educate themselves and marry later (when they aren’t travelling and enjoying their golden years far from their restaurants and children). In other words, they’ve caught up to modern times in a way the film’s characters haven’t.
The real protagonists of the story are Toula’s parents, Maria and Gus, played by Michael Constantine and Lanie Kazan. The wedding in the film is, in fact, theirs (the duo discovers that their original wedding certificate never got signed by the village priest). The depiction of their relationship in its twilight is the most realistic part of the film, despite the cheesy wedding dress shopping and cake buying montages. Maria reaffirms her place as the neck that moves Gus’ head, and their banter and respective characterizations are a pretty honest reflection of most of the Greek seniors’ relationships I get to witness.
As for Paris, she mostly rolls her eyeliner-laden eyes a lot and walks away in a huff. She goes on a date with Nat Wolf’s younger brother, who turns out to be Greek, in what is surely the most confusing “plot twist” of the movie. Manayiayia is also back, popping up at weird times just like in the first film, only this time it is distracting and unfunny. Cousin Nikki is still buxom, brother Nick is still macho, and oldest sister Athena is still boring. In other words, there is very little character growth in this family and, in effect, this movie series.
I say very little because we do get to know Joey Fatone’s Nick a little better. Fatone brings an unexpected sensitivity to his character, but his plot line is jarringly short when it could have been a great opportunity to explore the family dynamics further. Without giving it away, his development could have mirrored Toula’s from the first film, while also reflecting the lives of many audience members previously not included in the series.
OMG! That’s it, Nia! Go back and make Nick’s movie next! You’ve gotten the lousy sophomoric attempt out of the way. Now go do it right the third time around! That movie would probably get an A. This one gets a C, and only because I can’t in good conscience fail a fellow Greek girl.