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My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Only The Second-Most Useless Sequel Opening This Week"
1 stars

With the arrival of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” the sequel to the 2002 romantic comedy blockbuster that made a star out of actress-writer Nia Vardalos, one has to ask that most basic and fundamental question—why make “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” in the first place. Oh, I know the nuts-and-bolts answer to that question—the original film made so much money on such a small investment that even after a gap of 14 years, a sequel that pulled in even half as much at the box office would still be a bigger earner than the likes of “Connie & Carla” or any of Vardalos’s subsequent screen endeavors. What inspires my question is the fact that by the end of the first film, we saw heroine Toula (Vardalos) take her first steps towards independence from her crazily overbearing extended Greek family, undergo a makeover that transformed her from gawky to reasonably glamorous and meet and marry upper-class WASP hunk Ian (John Corbett). In other words, she pretty much achieved all of her dreams in ways that clearly satisfied the mass audience to the tune of about $250 million. However, once your main character has achieved all of her dreams, where do you go from there without merely repeating yourself in increasingly contrived ways? Vardalos was unable to overcome that problem with her short-lived and largely forgotten 2003 TV spinoff “My Big Fat Greek Life” and she still hasn’t figured it out with this new film, which merely rehashes all the old jokes from the original in the hopes that their familiarity will so delight fans of the first film that they will be willing to overlook just how flimsy this effort, for lack of a better word, really is.

Although the ending of the previous film indicated that Toula was finally going to be living life on her own terms, the sequel opens with her more or less right back where she started—taking care of her Greek immigrant parents, the Windex-wielding Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (the irrepressible Lanie Kazan), working in their diner and dealing with the myriad demands of her large and boisterous family, all of whom manage to converge in one wacky pack at the flash of a saganaki plate. At the same time, she herself has become the kind of smothering and overbearing parent to her own teen daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris) that she always complained that her own parents were to her. Now that graduation is near, Paris is looking at colleges and is torn between Northwestern, which will keep her firmly in the family circle, or NYU, which will allow her a break to be on her own at last. The possibility of losing her daughter to the Big Apple is devastating to Toula, even though it does open up the possibility of more sexytime with Ian to help revitalize their marriage.

But if Toula is more or less happily married and Paris has no compelling reason to get married at the moment (though prom is approaching), then who is at the center of the big fat Greek wedding promised/threatened in the title? Taking several pages from virtually every hack sitcom that has managed to last at least four seasons, Gus, while doing research to prove that he is indeed a direct descendant of Alexander the Great, discovers that when he and Maria got married 50 years ago just before leaving for America, the priest forgot to sign the certificate and as a result, they aren’t really married. Despite spending her entire life scorning anyone who isn’t married, Maria decides to be coy and insists that Gus propose to her properly before agreeing to marry him again. Of course, Gus is stubborn and refuses and wackiness ensues.

Let us assume that you are the type of person who actually has been yearning to see a sequel to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”—does what I have recounted above sound like anything like the kind of thing you have been waiting to see? Sure, the first one was little more than a feature-length sitcom episode but at least it felt like it was from one that had been running for a few years—there was nary an original element on display and everything about it was done in the broadest manner imaginable but the cast certainly clicked together well enough to help sell the frankly meager material to those willing to embrace it. As for the Greek stuff, it was almost grotesque at times but having actually attended a Greek wedding, I can attest that the film, whatever its countless flaws, did capture some of that boisterous energy. By comparison, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” much like the aforementioned sitcom spinoff apparently did—with no compelling story to tell, Vardalos, who once again penned the screenplay, is reduced to offering up a melange of hacky sitcom cliches and jokes lifted from the first film (we are maybe 27 seconds into it when the first Windex bottle makes an appearance) that are delivered with such a lack of subtlety by director Kirk Jones (whose “Waking Ned Devine” roughly did for the Irish what this film does for Greeks—reduce an entire culture to a few adorable quirks) that the whole thing could have been scored entirely with rim shots. As for the big plot conflicts—where is Paris going to go to school and will Gus and Maria remarry—both are pretty much resolved before the movie hits the 60-minute mark and leaving plenty of time for the wedding and its attendant wackiness, not to mention Paris’s trip to prom, both of which are happening on the same afternoon. (All the film needed was a trip to court to hit the trifecta of cliched comedy conclusions.) Frankly, the only thing that is really missing is a scene in which a couple of feuding characters get locked up inside a walk-in freezer and wind up having a heart-to-heart.

Although Vardalos wrote herself a part that won numerous hearts the first time around, she is unable to make that magic happen for a second time because she never figures out a way to make us care for Toula in the way that audiences did the first time around. Watching her being overbearing towards her daughter is cringe-worthy in the worst way and watching her once again trying to find her place amidst her family is also a bit off-putting since we have already seen her do all of that before. Although she and John Corbett still strike some sparks, the screenplay makes the odd mistake of keeping them apart for long stretches of screen time in order to make room for the massive cast of characters. However endearing they might have been back in the day, they come across here more as an undifferentiated mob in which each one gets to do a brief bit before fading back into the mob. (This is the kind of film where a character comes out as being gay and even that announcement winds up fading away amidst the surrounding clutter.) As the major new addition to the cast, Kampouris has the eye-rolling embarrassment of her sullen teen character down cold but has little to do otherwise. The only member of the big fat supporting cast is Andrea Martin as Toula’s wacky aunt—her material is just as weak and silly as everyone else’s but she delivers it with such force that she almost manages to make it work.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is a film that seems to have been made by and for those who felt that the old TV show “Rhoda” didn’t really hit its stride until after the perpetual underdog title character met and married Joe. It is so afraid to rock the boat that brought in so much money the first time around that it is unwilling to do anything other than bring back all the familiar faces and present dramatic conflicts that are anything but. Will Gus and Maria walk down the aisle again? Will Toula and Ian rekindle the spark in their marriage? Will Paris go away to college and, evidently more importantly, will she find herself a fella? Will John Stamos pop up for a more or less random cameo? Will Gus discover that he is indeed a direct descendant of Alexander the Great, perhaps inspiring Oliver Stone to one day to yet another reedit of “Alexander”? If you are in any doubt as to the answers to any of the above questions, then “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is the movie for you—perhaps the only one.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=29794&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/24/16 15:19:03
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User Comments

12/20/16 Luisa Original was great, the sequel's humor is forced, over acting, tries too hard to be funny 3 stars
4/17/16 Christopher Macias Fabulously Written! Movie was good original was better 4 stars
3/25/16 rcurrier My wife liked it, I laughed at a couple jokes 2 stars
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  25-Mar-2016 (PG-13)
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