‘I’ ON CULTURE
Just as we’ve been waiting for a good romantic comedy, along comes My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, a sequel to the 2002 blockbuster. Unfortunately, unlike the original, it is not something new and special. The original was a fun look at Old World, traditional families. The new one tries to convince us that they still exist. Of course they do. They’re just not as new or as funny. It is a form of comfort food, however. It goes down easy, and you don’t even have to think. Ah, if there was something really new…
The film takes place about 18 years after the original. Ian (John Corbett) and Toula (Nia Vardalos) are still married, but some of the spark is gone because of their emotional differences. He’s the calm, reasonable one. She’s a nervous wreck who seems thrilled to live next door to her parents and her sister, all of whom make her crazy as she runs the family restaurant.
Ian and Toula’s daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris) is applying to college but, while her parents want her to go to Northwestern (and live at home in Chicago), she longs for the excitement of New York City. Toula can simply not imagine life without her daughter around, worries about what will happen without her guidance and eventually realizes that she has turned into her own controlling mother — unfortunately, without any laughs.
Meanwhile, Toula’s mother, Maria (Lainie Kazan), and father, Gus (Michael Constantine), find out that the priest who married them a half-century ago did not sign their license. So, in order to legitimize their union, they have to get married again. This time, mama doesn’t want a rush-job — she wants a wedding and reception like her daughter’s. That’s where the second big wedding idea comes from. Oh, and Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) is busily trying to find a nice Greek boy for Paris and meddles all the time.
That is a lot of plots for a movie, but none of them go anywhere interesting. Let’s face it. The two old folks are going to get officially married, Paris is going to get her independence, and things will improve in Toula and Ian’s marriage. As a result, there is far too little tension. A key element in any romantic comedy is the time when everything seems to fall apart; there is no chance of that here, and that weakens the plot.
If you really liked the original film, you will not be surprised or bothered by anything in this film, but there’s nothing extra here. There’s no additional depth, no big laughs, nothing at all surprising. It reminded me in some ways of a situation comedy. Some of the funnier jokes don’t even seem to belong in the story; they seemed added on to get you to laugh, but they are not organic to any plot.
Director Kirk Jones seems to work on the idea that the zanier and more unrealistic the characters are, the funnier they will be. As a result, there are too few quiet times to rest between the broad comedy bits. Everything is overplayed to such a degree that most of the cast disappears and the characterizations are weakened.
Vardalos, who also wrote the movie, is too frenzied too often. She is supposed to be center of all the action, but she bounces around between the wacky family members so much and does not get a chance to become a coherent character. Corbett plays the one “white bread” character well. That is not the role of a straight man; at times he is the movie’s center.
Kazan and Martin play their roles at the top of their voices far too often. Wanting a big fancy wedding after 50 years of marriage is more affectation than affection. Toula was a nervous virgin going into that new world of marriage in the original. Mama is merely fixing a minor legality and, as a result, well, who really cared that much about the wedding?
Constantine, one of my favorite character actors, seemed so frail that I just felt sorry for him. Kampouris was cute and perky; I liked her best of all the performers, as she essentially played the role that Vardalos had in the first: the daughter wanting to escape her family and find her place in the world.
If you really loved the first movie, you’ll enjoy this one. If not, well, in a few weeks it will be available on demand. It was enjoyable, but not memorable.