'My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2'
Say what you will about the decade-late sequels to ‘Anchorman’ and ‘Zoolander’, but at least those movies had adoring cult audiences that demanded sequels for so long that their creators eventually gave in. ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’, on the other hand, exists purely to make a quick buck.
The original ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ was a charming success story when a sweet little indie somehow became the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time. However, it was never particularly memorable and certainly didn’t have anyone banging on the door demanding a follow-up (not even writer/star Nia Vardalos). No, this thing arrives 14 years later solely because someone thought they could make some money.
It’s been a while since Toula (Vardalos) and her clan of ethnic stereotypes cracked cheap jokes between moments of empty sentimentality. Now Toula and her hunky husband Ian (John Corbett) have a teenage daughter (Elena Kampouris), while the rest of the big fam’ lives on their block and everything is exactly the same. Since Vardalos was clearly struggling to somehow continue this story, she throws a bunch of subplots at the screen to see what sticks. As a result, Toula and her husband are struggling to reignite their marriage, their daughter is struggling to tell the family that she wants to attend college in another city, one of the cousins is secretly gay, and granddad (Michael Constantine) and grandma (Lainie Kazan) discover that their marriage certificate was never official and they aren’t actually married. Amidst that sea of awkwardly manufactured conflict, the movie eventually settles on the marriage plot to guide things because that means the movie can have a climatic wedding to take care of all those pesky storytelling requirements. Plus John Stamos shows up. Why? Because he’s Greek, so why not?!
Yes, ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’ is a textbook example of why most comedy sequels fail. Good comedies rarely ever end with cliffhangers. Things tend to wrap themselves up naturally. Generally speaking, the only option for a sequel is just to replay what worked last time with slight variances and hope that nostalgia will be enough to drag audiences along. The only trouble is that a joke is never as funny the second time, no matter how good it was the first. Vardalos doesn’t have any good Greek family jokes left after the last movie, so she just restages what worked last time only louder and in more expensive ways. You’ll get to see Windex used inappropriately, hear how Greeks invented everything, and get a little over-sharing from Andrea Martin’s loud aunt. (Admittedly, Martin scores a couple laughs in spite of the script because she’s too funny not to.) It’s the same stuff as before, only now even the most forgiving viewers will cringe their way through the proceedings.
The first movie wasn’t exactly groundbreakingly original. It was always a bit stale in its “Isn’t my ethnic family so wacky?” approach to comedy. However, it at least pushed the right rom-com buttons to qualify as a sweet and identifiable little fable, so all the stale cheese could be gently forgiven. Well, that’s not a factor this time. The sequel barely has any compelling narrative threads to hold the lame jokes in place, never mind a crowd-pleasing romance. The movie drifts along without focus, hoping that replaying gags and showing familiar characters smile a lot will be enough to please viewers. It’s not enough. Not even close. The whole thing might be syrupy sweet, but it’s also gross in a commercially exploitative way and that undercuts everything.
Granted, I never would have predicted that ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ could possibly be a big hit. Clearly something in Nia Vardalos’ family whining sessions spoke to vast audiences who could project all their own dysfunctional family dynamics and desperate dreams for love onto the writer/star’s creation. Perhaps some folks are so attached to the last movie that they’ll be excited to see the gang together again and won’t care that nothing interesting happens or that they know these jokes better than the cast does. However, I have a feeling this turkey is going to do little beyond disappoint those sorry souls who bother to show up for a second round of ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’. It might even make them wonder why they fell so hard for the original flick in the first place.