FILM REVIEW – MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2. With Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin. Written by Nia Vardalos. Directed by Kirk Jones. Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material. 94 minutes.
Fourteen years ago, Nia Vardalos wrote and starred in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” which became both a cultural phenomenon and the single highest-grossing independent film in history. It was an amiable sitcom about Toula (Vardalos) and her extended family dealing with her marrying Ian (John Corbett), a nice young man who didn’t happen to be Greek. It resonated with almost everyone who came from an ethnic group that emphasized strong family ties, and drew people to the movie theaters who hadn’t gone in years.
Is there a chance lightning could strike twice? Probably not, but MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 manages to bring the whole cast back together and play off of all the running jokes and character traits that audiences ate up the first time around. To Vardalos’s credit–she wrote the screenplay as well as stars in the movie–she doesn’t just make this a rerun of the first film.
There are three intertwining storylines set up in typical sitcom fashion. Her cantankerous father Gus (Michael Constantine), in searching for documentation that will prove he is a descendent of Alexander the Great, finds his marriage certificate and discovers that it was never signed by the priest. After fifty years, it seems he and Maria (Lainie Kazan) aren’t married. This leads to arguing over whether he has to propose and whether she missed out on a different life before leading to the celebration of the movie’s title.
Then there’s Toula and Ian’s marriage, which has lost its spark. They try to rekindle their romance in various ways, and if you don’t think it’s going to work out in the end you haven’t been paying attention. The third story has to do with their daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) who, at 17, is yearning for some independence while Toula doesn’t want to let her go. (Don’t do the math. Movie time moves at a different speed.) When Gus keeps trying to fix her up with a “Greek boyfriend” it’s clear why she’s applying to out-of state colleges.
The veteran cast members know how to run with this material, including Andrea Martin as the strong-willed Aunt Voula and Bess Meisler as the ever-mourning grandmother. Vardalos and director Kirk Jones hit the right beats so that it never veers too far off into slapstick or sentimentality. Young Kampouris is a good addition as the teen coming to grips with her family, for better or worse.
As with the first film, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” fills a niche at the movies by serving that segment of the audience that looks at the new releases and often feels like they’re being ignored by Hollywood. Consider it a visit to the old neighborhood and discovering that not only have things not changed, but you’re welcomed back with open arms and a piece of baklava.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.