Director: Kirk Jones
Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Elena Kampouris, Alex Wolff, Louis Mandylor, Bess Meisler, Bruce Gray
Release Date: March 25th, 2016
In 2002, Nia Vardolas became a household name when her movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding became a smash hit in theaters nationwide. With the support of producers Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson (who helped make Vardolas’ one-woman show into a feature film), the film defied expectations and became one of the highest-grossing comedies of all time. In 2003, members of the cast (save John Corbett, who was working on other projects at the time) tired to replicate that success on the small screen in the sitcom My Big Fat Greek Life. The mission failed. But now, after fourteen years, the cast — including Corbett — have reunited for the sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
Vardalos returns as the star and the writer here. Her character Toula has been happily married to Ian (Corbett) for nearly two decades. Their daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) is close to going to college and for much of the film, she’s torn between studying at Northwestern near where the family lives in Chicago and moving to New York City to become a student at New York University.
That story takes a backseat though to the main story-line here, which focuses on the marriage of Toula’s parents Gus and Maria, played by Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan. It turns out this couple — who spent much of the original film pressuring Toula to get married — aren’t actually married themselves. The minister at their wedding never signed the proper documentation, meaning that Gus and Maria were never officially wed (“I’m a hippie,” Maria says when she finds out.)
Like the original film, the plot’s twists and turns are seldom surprising but it’s the cast and the characters here who keep the story entertaining.
Most of the characters aren’t new (other than Paris– who briefly appeared as a child in the original– there are few new characters to speak of) but there’s a comfort and a wacky sense of fun that appears whenever this cast comes together. At a college fair for instance, the sight of this Greek clan coming as a pack to support/smother Paris is enough to remind viewers about why this family was so playfully eccentric to begin with.
It’s also quite a treat to watch Maria and Gus argue about their upcoming nuptials. For a couple that have always endorsed marriage to their children, it’s funny to see them one-up each other in a bid to gain the upper hand in their relationship on the way to the aisle. Maria won’t compromise and Gus won’t propose (again!) so the two are constantly battling each other. Beneath those superficial arguments though is a kind-hearted love between them that neither party is willing to concede openly.
Along for the ride are some of the unforgettable supporting characters from the original, including the chatterbox Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) and the eccentric but astute grandmother Mana-Yiayia (Bess Meisler).
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is inferior to the original, which earned an Oscar nomination for Vardolas’ original script, but it’s still a solid concoction that mixes some of the elements we loved about the original (“Tell a phone. Telegram. Tell a Greek,” one character says about the family’s direct line of communication) with a few nice moments that move the characters forward (including a nice moment that Ian shares with his father).
If you go into the theater expecting to be surprised, you will likely be disappointed. However, if you go into the theater expecting a few solid laughs and a comforting return to this boisterous Greek family, you will be pleased by what this sequel has to offer.
Review by: John Hanlon