Mark Reviews Movies

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Kirk Jones

Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Elena Kampouris, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Gia Carides, Louis Mandylor, Joey Fatone, Alex Wolff, Bess Meisler

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive material)

Running Time: 1:34

Release Date: 3/25/16

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 24, 2016

Screenwriter Nia Vardalos is clearly aware on which side her bread is buttered. Her character's story was at the center of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but it really didn't mean much of anything—a mousy, single woman gets a boost of confidence, finding herself and a man in the process. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 shoves Vardalos' Toula into the backdrop, even though her marriage has flat-lined in terms of romance and passion. If Toula's story in the first movie was something of a middle-class fairy tale, then this could have been the realization that there's a big, fat confusing world beyond the pages of a storybook romance.

It begins that way. At the movie's start, Toula is another victim of the economic crisis, and she has lost of her job at a travel agency. She has returned to work at her family's Greek restaurant in Chicago. Her father Gus' (Michael Constantine) health is in decline, and she is tasked with taking him to doctor's appointments and physical therapy sessions.

She's contending with a teenage daughter who desperately wants to get away from her suffocating family. Toula, who has started hovering closer to her daughter when the 17-year-old Paris (Elena Kampouris) wants some distance, is starting to realize that she might be becoming the overbearing parent that she herself wanted to escape. She and her husband Ian (John Corbett) barely see each other, and most of their time together is spent worrying about their daughter's impending decision about college.

Toula not only has returned to her old ways (She finds her old glasses in a drawer at the restaurant, confirming the regression) but also has found a way to become exactly what she never wanted to be. This is the tough, harsh other side of a happy ending, so obviously, the movie is about Toula's parents needing to get married again, because a priest never signed their marriage certificate, and the extended family arranging the wedding. Also, it's about Toula's father learning to use a computer so he can use an ancestry website to confirm his suspicion that he's a direct descendant of Alexander the Great.

Just as the original movie offered a string of comic setups with no payoffs, the sequel provides a pragmatic setup—a look at the way Toula's life has fizzled out after her dreams came true—with no intentions of really following through on it. Instead, Vardalos takes the easy route—the buttery side of her creative bread, to return to the opening cliché. The first movie, a surprise breakout hit, colored its generic romantic-comedy trappings with a supporting cast of "wacky" stereotypes. As broad as they were, those characters at least gave the movie a little life.

Vardalos seems to be working under the assumption—probably not incorrect—that the original movie's success primarily was derived from those characters. They take over here.

The plot, such as it is, involves Gus learning that his marriage to Maria (Lainie Kazan) isn't technically official. Maria wants another wedding, and Gus eventually gives in to her wish when she goes on strike from doing his laundry (There's an amusing scene in which the couple engages in a circular argument that has Maria turning Gus' logic for not having another wedding into a reason for having another one).

Meanwhile, Paris is trying to decide whether she wants to attend a nearby university or one in another state. Toula and Ian try and fail to rekindle their romance with date nights. The now bigger Portokalos clan inevitability interferes with everything, thinking they're being helpful.

It would be easy to say that the sequel recycles material from its predecessor, but it wouldn't be accurate, since the first movie basically had one joke (Toula's family is filled with busybodies who get in the way of trying to live a normal life) and one emotional thread beneath that joke (The family members may be nosy and judgmental and meddling, but they mean well, which makes a couple of scenes here involving a trio of nosy and judgmental neighbors a bit hypocritical). The joke and the mawkishness return, but now there's also a smidgen of nostalgia to go with them.

They didn't work the first time, and they still don't work a second time. Constantine remains a highlight, especially in the way his Gus struggles to open up about his feelings, but even then, there are only so many times that this material can go back to the well of one-note sentimentality before it and the one-note joke get old. What My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 doesn't realize is that they got old at some point in the first movie.

Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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