It’s not an exaggeration for me to say that, quite honestly, 2002’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding is probably one of my favourite comedies of the last fifteen years. Something about the warm, friendly humour combined with more than just a touch of the crazy foreign family aesthetic that mirrors my own life made the picture one of the most quotable and most re-watchable in my household ever since it’s release. Now it’s fourteen years later and, seemingly without much universal demand to revisit the world of the Portokalos family, Nia Vardalos and co. are back with another instalment. Could the sequel be even bigger and fatter than the original?
The short and simple answer is no, absolutely not. It breaks my heart to say it, but My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a big fat disaster in almost every aspect. We rejoin the family nearly two decades after the events of the first film, with Toula (Nia Vardaloss) and Ian’s (John Corbett) daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) an annoying seventeen years old and similarly to her mother all those years ago, struggling to be comfortable and come to terms with her overbearing family. Alongside Paris’ coming of age, the audience also gets two other narrative tangents, the first being mild marriage struggles and loss of spark between Toula and Ian, and the bigger, overarching plot of the discovery that her parents, after all these years, never got their marriage license signed and therefore must go through with, you guessed it, a second big fat Greek wedding. In trying to incorporate so many different plot points, the film fails to give ample attention to anything and ends up feeling very much the first episode of a ten episode sitcom rather than a complete feature. Even more detrimental is the sad fact that, unfortunately, and in stark contrast to it’s predecessor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is not funny enough, at times even painfully unfunny. It feels very much as though Nia Vardalos re-watched the original, picked up on everything that the viewers loved, and proceeded to repeat each theme and motif so many times that ultimately too much repetition ruined the enjoyment. Callbacks to the best parts of the movie are one thing, but incessantly beating the audience over the head with new versions of ‘classic moments’ has only one result, and that is to make us long for the 2002 version that made the jokes feel original rather than aged. The film was clearly made with love by a group of actors who seem to enjoy themselves in their respective roles, but fourteen years after the first movie (even though it stands as the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time) and thirteen years after the failure of the My Big Fat Greek Life sitcom that was cancelled after seven episodes, one really does have to wonder how this sequel came to be in an age where you seemingly have to have a superhero or franchise reboot vision in order to get any picture made. Ultimately, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 has not done enough damage to dampen my love for it’s predecessor, I don’t think anything could, but it certainly is not something that I will be hampering to see again any time soon. Why go for sloppy seconds when I can treat myself to the original delight again and again?
Reprising her role as Toula, Nia Vardalos gives a somewhat odd performance. It’s hard to pin point what exactly felt odd about Vandals’ turn, but there was certainly something self aware and distant about it, perhaps a case of a creator who is in full knowledge that her work is not up to standard. The cast of familiar faces including John Corbett as husband Ian and Lainie Kazan and Michael Constantine as parents Maria and Gus definitely bring an air of war nostalgia to the screen, but the messiness of narratives plots fails to let any of them shine particularly brightly. The film’s secret weapon, just as she was in the original, is Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula. Blessed with all of the funniest lines in 2002, Martin again is having a blast as the sharp tongued, opinionated and unashamed aunt. But again, the material with which she has to work is of a far lesser quality this time round, and though I certainly laughed more for Andrea Martin than any other element of the picture, her performance alone is not enough to redeem the lacklustre energy of the piece as a whole.
Overall, I have no choice but to put My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 down as a huge disappointment. It was always going to be difficult to recapture the magic of the original, but this sequel fails so spectacularly that I can’t believe the same set of characters that brought me so much joy fourteen years ago could leave me so cold today. In what is a classic case of every vaguely funny part of the movie being thrown in to the trailer, you might as well fill up on those three or so minutes and call it a day.