As much as I don’t want to oversell it, the original “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a massive success both creatively and at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, a production budget of $5 million turned into a movie that earned $241 million at the domestic box office. I don’t think it’s that 2002 was a simpler time, it’s much more that while it is purportedly telling the story of one Greek-American woman trying to find the balance between family and the rest of her life, it is a far more universal tale. It doesn’t hurt that the movie is hysterically funny as well.
How big a success is the original? Well, it spawned a TV show, like “M*A*S*H,” but unlike the tale of doctors and nurses in Korea during the war, “My Big Fat Greek Life” was a disappointment, airing seven episodes in 2003 and that’s it. But, apparently the good will for the film has lasted long enough that we’re now getting a belated sequel, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” directed by Kirk Jones (Joel Zwick directed the original) which is hitting theaters this Friday.
Nia Vardalos not only returns as the star for the sequel, but has penned the script, just as she did with the first film. In fact, much of the original cast returns including John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Louis Mandylor, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, and Ian Gomez. Added into the mix, amongst others, is Elena Kampouris as Paris, Toula (Vardalos) and Ian’s (Corbett) daughter. John Stamos also, weirdly, shows up for a little while but is given nothing to do.
It is actually not entirely fair to single Stamos out as having nothing to do, because most of the folks in the movie have nothing to do. There are several different plotlines that are introduced in the film, but by the time the credits roll they’re nearly all dropped, drastically altered, missing pieces, or only begun shortly before the film ends. It is perplexing.
Essentially, however, there are two main stories that take place – Toula, Ian, and Paris have to deal with Paris’ going off to college and the teen’s trying to make sense of her large and boisterous Greek family. As with the first movie, a large part of this are the grandparents, Gus (Constantine) and Maria (Kazan) wanting to play matchmaker, although now they do so with as opposed to Toula. The film doesn’t linger over this last bit, it is instead a series of punchlines… until it isn’t and Paris accidentally meets a nice boy.
The second storyline, and where the film’s name originates, is with Gus realizing that he and Maria are not really married, the priest never signed the wedding certificate. Now, if Gus can convince Maria, they’ll get married again.
The wedding plot, as with the boyfriend plot, and the Toula and Ian relationship plot (they’re trying to keep their marriage alive), all feel like side stories. The original film revolves around the Toula-Ian relationship but here in the sequel, the moments that feature just the two of them, particularly a romantic dinner sequence, feel wooden. Even if they are facing difficulties rekindling romance, the entire conversation, no matter the topic, offers incredibly stilted conversation. Rather than feeling purposeful, the moment rings false.
With “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” the audience jumps back into the lives of these characters nearly two decades on to see that almost nothing has changed which makes one wonder why bothering to tell a story now. Then, while the basic ideas of what might occur—the basic stories we follow—are amusing enough in principle, they are never deepened enough to make them compelling for more than few scant minutes. There is no problem that can’t be overcome with the application of something as simple as a few squirts of Windex.
The closest the movie comes to an involving plot is with Paris, and that is mainly due to Kampouris’ perfectly nailing the character. Even if the movie has Paris proceed in odd and at times indecipherable ways, Kampouris sells it and makes a great addition to the family.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is a disappointment is because the family in general, and characters in specific, feel as though they are real and the kind of people we’d all like to know. Unfortunately, the storylines Vardalos has written for the sequel in no way match the genius of the characters she brought to life in the original.
I still want to spend more time with the Portokalos family, but not like this.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures