“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is in dire need of Gus Portokalos’ magic Windex bottle.
The second installment in the Portokalos family saga, written by star Nia Vardalos and directed by Kirk Jones, has been 14 years in the making. Its predecessor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was originally released in 2002 and surprisingly became a sleeper hit despite its limited release. In fact, it grossed over $368 million worldwide…obliterating its mere $5 million budget. It is the highest grossing rom com of all time…a feat not to be repeated by its successor.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 fails in several areas. The charm of the first chapter arose from its easy approach to comedy. We were introduced to a family unit with unique quirks, but the family unit was front and center. This time around, the quirks are put under a harsh magnifying glass…and they lose the humor completely.
Sure, the schticks are goofy at best, but they’re too goofy. In the first 30 minutes, MBFGW 2 takes all of the gags that worked in the first movie and repeats them again, shoving them into your face. I don’t like to be hit over the head with comedy…small nuances can shine, but even theater favorite (and my personal idol) Andrea Martin comes off too forced, too wacky.
The setup is believable, at first. Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) opens the film with some exposition to clear up: she’s still living next door to her parents, she’s back to waiting tables at Dancing Zorba’s, and her 17-year-old daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) desperately wants a break from everything Greek.
Maria and Gus (Lainie Kazan and Michael Constantine) return as heads of the Portokalos clan with much more to nag about. Their focus settles on finding Paris a suitable Greek boy to marry, until Gus realizes that his marriage certificate was never properly signed…a dilemma which worries Gus and delights Maria.
Things aren’t 100% for Toula and Ian (Michael Corbett) either. Toula has become the epitome of hovercraft parent, much to the chagrin of Paris. Ian wants Toula to focus more energy on their marriage, which becomes difficult as Paris decides where to attend college.
The plot lines multiply like rabbits from there: Gus wants to trace his family history, Paris asks a boy to prom, Maria can’t hold on to a marriage planner, Toula can’t let go of her need to fix things, Angelo (Joey Fatone) reveals a surprising revelation, and Ian wonders if he needs to be more of a presence in his parents’ lives (Fiona Reid and Bruce Gray).
Sound like a wedding out of control? It is. However, the film manages to ground itself in some sincerity about 3/4 of the way through, and we see a glimpse of the original magic harnessed so well in MBFGW. When the cast deals with serious issues (parents growing up, children moving away, sexual preference), the comedy is not the focus, and ironically, becomes funnier than before.
As a true-blue fan of the first movie, I’m happy to say that not all is lost. There are a few memorable moments that redeem the sequel. There is a particularly endearing scene where Gus is attempting to use the computer, and the cast represents all of us as they attempt to show him how to maneuver a mouse. Andrea Martin is timeless (seriously, the woman DOES NOT age). Her wedding outfit alone deserves a casting credit. The reappearance of Rodney and Harry Miller is quite welcomed, as are the brief cameos of Ian Gomez, John Stamos, and Rita Wilson.
At its core, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is an enjoyable flick, but it’s too forced, too big, and too much. It just needed to relax. The really poignant moments occur when the film is weighted with some gravity, and it does improve as it goes along. For fans of the first movie, you’ll be delighted to revisit the Portokalos tribe and their zany antics, but just know that, like a comet, well-directed comedy only comes once in a while.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars(I struggled with this one. I was tempted to give it a 2.5, but I do love the series and these characters. Call me soft, but I wanted this film to succeed).