In 2003, the story of an introverted, frumpy young woman, Toula, trying to carve out a life (and love) for herself, away from her well-meaning but overbearing extended Greek family, became a sleeper hit. My Big Fat Greek Wedding propelled writer and actress, Nia Vardalos, into stardom. Toula falls in love with a non-Greek, Ian (John Corbett), and the biggest of crazy weddings has to take place. It was a sweet and unexpectedly funny film. It became the high-grossing romantic comedy of all time. Yes, bigger than Pretty Woman or When Harry Met Sally. The movie was nominated for two Golden Globes (Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and Best Performance of an Actress Musical or Comedy) and an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
The sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, takes place eighteen years later. Toula and Ian’s daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), is just as embarrassed by her Greek family as her mom once was. She’s desperate to get away from grandfather, Gus (Michael Constantine), who is constantly trying to marry her off and telling her to have babies. Grandmother, Maria (Lainie Kazan), instructs Paris to “protect the plucky; eyes open knees shut”, much to the teen’s mortification. Dad Ian is the principal at her high school; her mom volunteers for every school activity; and every single loud auntie, uncle, and cousin thrice-removed attends the smallest of events. Paris applies to several colleges outside of Chicago, with Toula begging her not to leave. At the same time Toula and Ian discover they miss the romance in their relationship and start going on date nights.
But, as the title suggests, another big, fat wedding has to take place. Gus discovers his marriage certificate was never signed, meaning he and Maria have been living in sin for decades. Maria thinks this is great opportunity to have the proposal and wedding she’s always wanted, but Gus is about as romantic as a goldfish. The family jumps in to organise the wedding, but tensions between Maria and Gus threaten to derail the nuptials. Will they get everything done on time? Will Maria forgive Gus and walk down the aisle in a puffy white creation that should never have seen the light of day?
Because, it is really, really difficult to engage with this film, which goes down like stale baklava. The plot is ridiculous and the characters who were so charming in the first film are now cutout stereotypes of Greek nationality and culture. Everything that was endearing and funny in 2003 has been watered down and this sequel becomes a bit like a bad sitcom where the actors constantly have to be reminded of their lines which are then delivered over-exaggeratedly.
How did Vardalos manage to create such beloved characters just to turn them into stereotypes later? It’s a damn shame, that what was a refreshing romantic comedy, has been followed up by this tragic and vapid film.
Skip or wait for the DVD.
Director: Kirk Jones
Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Elena Kampouris, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan
Rating: 2 out of 5