My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)

People change. Greeks don’t.

Just like an uninvited relative who crashes a party with some stale baklava and a bunch of shoddy hand-me-downs, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is the ‘obligatory’ sequel that nobody asked for. More like a meant-for-Netflix special as opposed to a major theatrical release, this big fat continuation barely justifies its own existence beyond giving writer and star Nia Vardalos something to do — seeing as she’s been up to sweet FA since her last film, I Hate Valentine’s Day (2009), tanked and her god-awful show My Big Fat Greek Life (2003) was dumped, put down like a wounded animal on the side of the road, a mere seven episodes in. While the original sleeper hit from 2002 was genuinely fresh and charming, this lazy second outing, which essentially recycles most of the material from its predecessor, validates one thing; Vardalos couldn’t come up with any new material over the course her five-year downtime.

'We'll do a sequel! It'll be the same, but different ...'
‘We’ll do a sequel! It’ll be the same, but different …’

Good ol’ Nia Vardalos returns to the franchise as Toula (who’s once again working at her family’s restaurant), along with her non-Greek but now accepted hubby Ian (John Corbett), having climbed the ranks all the way up to school principal. Seeing as the first film centered on a ‘wedding,’ Vardalos (this time) shoehorns the ceremony back into the story by means of a lame blunder. You see, it turns out that when Toula’s parents — Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) — tied the knot some fifty years ago, the priest conveniently forgot to sign their marriage license, making the whole thing null and void — because that’s an honest mistake ‘cough, cough.’ No matter, there’s a simple solution to this, just quickly sign the papers and remarry, right? Wrong. With the exception of Toula, Ian and their teenage daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris), everyone acts as though they’re twelve years old, bickering and complaining, stretching a problem that could have been resolved in say, five minutes, into a stupidity driven, feature-length sequence of events.

Anyhow, what transpires is a barrage of non-threatening gags and flimsy sideplots. Toula, living in the house next door to her folks, tries to reignite the spark in her marriage, Vardalos playing the ‘middle-aged-parents-who’ve-lost-their-romance’ card. On top of her domestic duties, she’s also taking care of her own mother and father, Vardalos foolishly turning herself into a victim of the fam-bam in the process. And oh, she’s just started to fret about the fact that Paris might have to leave the nest once she zips off to collage. Joey Fatone’s Cousin Angelo reveals a big fat gay secret, while Paris grapples with the embarrassment of her ‘uncool’ dysfunctional family — a narrative strand that could’ve been better developed. Then there’s that titular wedding, the entire Portokalos clan scurrying about, trying to bring it all together.

A touching moment
A touching moment

To be blunt, this big fat unnecessary cash-grab has two major flaws. Number one, the flick ain’t that funny — it’s more or less filled with what I like to call ‘mum and dad jokes’ — director Kirk Jones, Nanny McPhee (2005), constructing a bunch of cheesy dim-witted skits that revolve around elderly people — old farts failing at technology, old farts talking dirty and old farts acting like a bunch of malakas. Furthermore, Yiayia (Grandma) (Bess Meisler) does dumb things for old-lady comic relief — she hides under a table with a box of baked goods (I don’t know why), pretends to be asleep (perhaps I’d find this amusing if I were 5-years-old) and frolics down a suburban street in Toula’s sexy nightdress. Without the culture-clash stuff from the first film taking center stage, it really feels as though Vardalos didn’t know where else to take these characters. Number two, instead of portraying the large family dynamic in an upbeat positive light, Vardalos writes Toula into a corner as she’s constantly being weighed down by the demands of her family (running errands and whatnot, putting her parent’s needs over those of her husband’s), the screenplay unintentionally highlighting the toxicity and entrapment of a large family unit. I’m certainly glad I don’t have a big fat controlling family.

The big fat cast at least look as though they’re happy to be back, each member reprising their role from the previous film. Nia Vardalos and John Corbett, Raising Helen (2004), are both relatively good, the pair recapturing the sparkle they displayed fourteen years ago, while Andrea Martin, Wag the Dog (1997), has the most fun embracing Aunt Voula’s no-filter persona. Trying to trace his ancestry back to Alexander the Great, Michael Constantine, The Juror (1996), is okay as Toula’s dad Gus, whereas Lainie Kazan, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008), is distracting as the larger-than-life Maria, the veteran actress’ plastic surgery detracting from her nutty performance. Newcomer Elena Kampouris, Men, Women & Children (2014), does the best she can as Toula’s daughter Paris, the 18-year-old basically capturing the same feelings of traditional pressure that her mother felt in the first movie. Elsewhere, Rob Riggle, 21 Jump Street (2012), is wasted as a Northwestern University representative while John Stamos, from television’s Full House (1987), shows up for one of the most pointless bit parts I’ve seen all year.

'Opa! Where's the Ouzo?'
‘Opa! Where’s the Ouzo?’

Look, I understand that I’m not the intended audience here (I’m far from being a forty-something woman with kids), but My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 just feels dated and fatigued as it fails to capture any of the winning magic that made the 2002 film such a delight. If the abysmal My Big Fat Greek Life hasn’t already killed the brand name, I’m sure My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 will do the trick. What a big fat waste of time, but hey, at least I got a free Windex at the media screening!

1.5 / 5 – Poor

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is released through Universal Pictures Australia