1.5 stars (out of 4)
It is with great pain and sorrow to announce that the sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a Big Fat Waste of Time. Do not RSVP. Do not check the registry and send gifts.
But you should ask onetime celluloid bride Nia Vardalos why it took a whopping 14 years to churn out such an ill-conceived comedy (out March 25). The actress and screenwriter stumbles badly in her attempt to re-create the magic of her surprise 2002 hit.
It remains the highest-grossing rom-com indie of all time, by the way, as well it should be: The story of an introverted, self-deprecating, single 30-year-old woman trying to achieve autonomy from her close-knit Greek family resonated deeply in the hearts of millions. We fell in love with Toula and the Windex-obsessed Portokalos clan, and to this day, their timeless and often hilarious antics hold up remarkably well.
The cast returns in this follow-up, all looking like they’ve properly aged 14 years (some better than others). Not too much has changed since Toula married non-Greek Ian (John Corbett). She’s back to working in the family’s Dancing Zorbas diner in Chicago. The couple’s daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris) — seen walking to school in the last scene of the original — is now 17 and ready for college. They still live next door to Toula’s parents, Gus and Maria (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan). Also in the neighborhood: her patronizing older sister, goofy younger brother, oversharing Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) and multitude of cousins (read: Joey Fatone and a bunch of randoms).
Great. We’re all caught up. But now, Vardalos actually has to, like, give them something to do. This is where the film begins to languish. Instead of a simple story, she offers up a hodgepodge of lazy and trite episodes. Toula and Ian have difficulty recapturing the spark in their marriage. Gus wants to see if he’s a descendant of Alexander the Great. Gus can’t work the computer. Paris rebels against her parents and wants to be a loner. (Rebelling = wearing a lot of eyeliner, a la Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club.) Somebody is gay. Elderly Mana-Yiayia is kooky. Gus and Maria learn they were never legally wed in the old country more than 50 years ago. Cue an excuse to throw another wedding. All the plots are blah sitcom material, at best — and in case you don’t remember, there’s a reason why the CBS spinoff My Big Fat Greek Life lasted all of seven episodes in 2003.
The underlying problem with nearly all comedy sequels is the lack of freshness. The once-sharp jokes are now recycled, and they rarely earn the same laughs. So prepare to get restless when Toula undergoes yet another frumpy-to-glam makeover and Voula describes the mole removed from her backside.
And we get it, Gus: If you give him any word, he will prove that it is rooted in Greek origins. Even “Facebook.”
Everything that was once endearing about this bustling family now irritates. A jam-packed backyard roast to welcome the new in-laws is credible; that same entire fam showing up to Paris’ college fair — and threatening an admissions offer from Northwestern University — is just silly. And though Maria whines about settling down too early in her life, her poor granddaughter Paris is constantly pressured to find a date and mate. No wonder the teen wants to ditch these people.
To Vardalos’ credit, she still has a warm presence. More than a decade after the Wedding, there’s something emotionally satisfying about her and Corbett’s breezy onscreen marriage. We want them to stay together and prove a neurotic Greek and an easygoing Episcopalian vegetarian can live (relatively) happily ever after.
But as far as this franchise is concerned, it’s time for a divorce.