MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2: Bigger, Fatter, Duller
The subheading on one of the posters for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 claims that "People change. Greeks don't." Yet, what made the original film so dynamic and engaging is exactly that:
The subheading on one of the posters for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 claims that “People change. Greeks don’t.” Yet, what made the original film so dynamic and engaging is exactly that: the growth of each character throughout the film. The main protagonist Toula, for example, begins the film as a mousey 30-year-old living under the shadow of her large Greek family, yet emerges from it a strong, independent woman, who not only leaves her family restaurant and pursues her own career but also, to the spite of her father especially, marries a non-Greek man.
At the conclusion of the film, even her father Gus manages to have a moment of triumph, despite his earlier objections to her marriage. Yet, at the start of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, it’s as if none of that has even happened. Toula is back working at her family restaurant, and Gus has simply gotten older but not any wiser. Time has passed for the Portokalos family, but everyone is exactly the same as the first time we saw them. Such a regressive aspect is just one of many problems that dwell within My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
Scrambled and Noisy
It has become a common trend to make the sequel to a famous movie into one that is somehow bigger and wackier than the previous entry. The trend likely started because a sequel no longer needed to develop characters that we were already familiar with, and therefore there was ample screen-time to fill. More often than not, though, such an embellishment is just a sly attempt to compete with the original’s success.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 juggles several different storylines. In one, Toula (Nia Vardolos) and her husband Ian (John Corbett) are helping their daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) apply to colleges, and are attempting to not-so-subtly pressure her to find a school in their hometown of Chicago. At the same time, Toula’s parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) find out that their marriage document was technically never signed, and so they decide to have a new wedding now to make it official. Mix in-between these stories a wildly inappropriate and outspoken aunt (Andrea Martin), a long-lost family member from Greece attempting to reconcile with his brother, and a frail, impossibly old senile great-grandmother, and you’ve got yourself a movie, right?
Turns out, not so much. The original film was so enjoyable precisely because it was so simple. We saw this noisy and invasive world through Toula’s perspective, and were able to empathize with her as a result. By having a movie as loud as the family at its center, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 likewise becomes a boisterous, head-spinning experience.
Nia Vardalos, who wrote this film and the original, appears to have lost some of her perspective when she decided to make this sequel. For one, she makes her own Toula into the least interesting character of the movie, both through her writing and her acting. Much of her dialogue is simply monotoned responses to her much-more dynamic family members, which just makes it hard to empathize with her as much as we did before. Her attempts to reconcile with her now-rebellious daughter Paris, for example, are barely touched upon throughout the film, despite the potential for some strong emotional moments.
No, most of this film is instead focused on stereotypes and overused recurring jokes. Really, how many times can we see an old lady do something senile before it could be taken offensively? Or see an old man attempt to “display his masculinity” by essentially claiming that his wife is acting above her gender? Such overused stereotypes were wrong back in the early 2000s; now they are basically unforgivable. The film does attempt to be progressive by including a gay side-story, in which a son eventually confesses to his mother what he had been trying to hide for much of his life, and she is surprisingly willing to accept it. It’s at least an admirable effort, although because the story is barely given a passing glance it instead feels more like a shoehorned attempt as opposed to something more believable.
To be fair, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is, at its core, a comedy, and as such it does have its moments, even if they are easily outweighed by the flaws of the film. Aunt Voula, for example, is a hilarious character, with some of the film’s more outrageous lines. With no censor between her mind and her words, and played with straight-spoken, timely delivery by Andrea Martin, the character is often a scene-stealer. Much of the original cast returned for this film, and though it would take forever to mention them all, it’s worth noting that a majority of them step back into their roles nicely. Elena Kampouris, as Paris, is also a worthy addition to the family.
Some other highlights include a unique method of arrival at Gus and Maria’s wedding, Toula and Ian reliving their younger days by being intimate in a car, which obviously does not end well, and a scene involving Gus attempting to research Greek ancestry on the computer. Individually, these scenes are very clever; collectively, though, the film still just doesn’t quite work.
For those who are looking to just kick back and enjoy a film without too much critical analysis, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is not an altogether regrettable suggestion. Seeing the film back-to-back with the original may have been my fatal flaw, as I was able to contrast just what worked in the first that is then turned on its head in the sequel. I suppose, then, that the Portokalos family was only destined to have one memorable wedding.[highlighted_p boxed=”false” center=”false”]So what did you think of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2? Can you think of any sequels that are just as good as the original film?
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.