My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
To the extent that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is about cross-cultural pollination, try this one out: instead of "Opa!", how about "Oy Vey!"
Yes, they're back, and not because anyone was pining for their return. The "lovable" Portokalos family, who charmed viewers in the fluffy 2002 surprise hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, have returned to the big screen after a failed flirtation with the small one (in 2003's My Big Fat Greek Life). The intervening years haven't been kind to them. Viewers for the most part have forgotten about them and the pathetic effort that is My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 isn't likely to give them a reason to remember. On a weekend when Batman and Superman will be slugging it out, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is likely to sink like a stone into the Aegean Sea (or at least Lake Michigan).
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a fun romantic comedy with a winning love story that, although by no means original, tossed in some fish-out-of-water elements as generic Caucasian Ian (John Corbett) found himself surrounded by the living caricatures of an extended Greek family. The film had a good time gently poking fun at Old World stereotypes. But writer/actress Nia Vardalos (with no small help from producer Tom Hanks) caught lightning in a bottle. Even had the long-delayed sequel represented great cinema (something it's not close to), it wouldn't have been as well-received. The "right time, right place" is a long time ago in a country far, far away. What we're left with is something that recalls Crocodile Dundee in L.A. - the misbegotten notion that bringing back characters long past their sell-by date is a good idea.
This is a sit com. An '80s-style sit-com. A bad '80s-style sit-com. The dramatic situations are forced and artificial. The jokes are lame, provoking (at best) half-hearted chuckles. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 needs a laugh track to tell us when we're supposed to laugh. Watching this movie is painful because, at one time, I remember having liked these people. Now, the best of them vary from inconsequential to insufferable. The caricature quotient has been amped up to an annoying level. The first movie used stereotypes to provide touchstones and add to the comedy. This time, they define the principals. On top of that, there's not much plot, so the movie meanders for about 90 minutes before arriving at a tepid climax.
The film takes place about 18 years after the original (time having passed a little more quickly in the screen universe than the real one). Ian and Toula (Vardalos) are still married. He's a calm, reasonable guy who has almost nothing to do throughout the film except occasionally to make calm, reasonable proclamations. She's a nervous wreck who, in addition to being a helicopter parent, is a helicopter daughter and sister. I guess that's what happens when you live next door to your in-laws. Ian and Toula have a daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris). At age 17, she's applying to colleges but, while her parents want her to go to Northwestern (and live at home in Chicago), she longs for the distant wilds of New York City. Meanwhile, Toula's mother, Maria (Lainie Kazan), and father, Gus (Michael Constantine), discover that the priest who married them a half-century ago never signed their license. So, in order to legitimize their union, they have to get married again. This time, Maria doesn't want a rush-job - she wants a wedding and reception like her daughter's.
Most of the cast is back, including John Corbett, who gave the TV series a pass. He spends the film hanging around the periphery, trying not to get in anyone's way. Michael Constantine, who was 88 years old when the movie was made, seems not to be in the best of health, so there's something a little sad about watching him gamely follow the script's dictates. Nia Vardalos, who was endearing in 2002, vies with Andrea Martin to see who can be more annoying. They have plenty of competition from the supporting cast. The only one (other than Corbett) to emerge unscathed is Elena Kampouris, who does a nice job in a thankless role.
Many sequels exist purely to make money. This movie's easily predicted box office failure makes it difficult to figure out why it was produced. Thankfully, the question of whether or not to see it is a lot easier to answer.
© 2016 James Berardinelli