Like an uninvited relative who barges in unannounced, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is back for a second helping of helicopter parenting, familial bonding and Mana-Yiayia’s legendary Spanakopita. You all asked for this decade-plus reboot to happen, right? I must have missed the “BRING BACK TOULA” petitions, because without a ravenous fanbase, a fourteen-year-old romantic sequel seems like a risky play – even by today’s Hollywood standards. And, as feared, Kirk Jones’ Hallmark-y, meant-for-Netflix continuation struggles to justify its existence beyond a criminally underused John Stamos cameo.
It’s not the worst date-night experience, it’s just disappointingly far from the best. Insufferably tolerable, if you will. Yes, those are two words that nullify each other’s existence, defining the blandest, most forgettable cinematic purgatory imaginable.
Sounds about right.
Nia Vardalos returns as writer and star, Toula, along with her non-Greek, but now more accepted husband, Ian (John Corbett). Their daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), must decide between a college experience far from home, or remaining close to her overbearing mother, while Grandpa Gus (Michael Constantine) tries to find his granddaughter a nice Greek boy – but Gus has problems of his own. When he married Maria (Lainie Kazan) some fifty years ago, the priest never signed their license, meaning Gus’ marriage never officially happened. From here, the rest of the family complicates things in their own special way, because family is always there, for better or worse.
As expected, this isn’t about a family tearing apart – this big fat Greek wedding is about settling differences, pulling together and providing support. It’s flowery, non-threatening dramatics that work themselves out in a few of scripted lines, never hinting that darkness could cloud cheery resolutions. Toula struggles with Pre-Empty Nest Syndrome, Maria and Gus face a hypocritical reality where they’ve been living in sin, and Paris finds herself constantly overburdened – these are real, big boy and girl issues, yet they’re handled with a weightless soapiness. You know, the kind of filmmaking where characters dance around during a wedding planning montage to Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” being sung in Greek. That kind of happy-go-lucky dreaming.
Every time My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 attempts to provoke some type of reminiscent human emotion, Vardalos’ script undercuts developed storytelling with something unnecessarily goofy. Because that’s how life always plays out, right? Be it Mana-Yiayia (Bess Meisler) prancing down a suburban street wearing Toula’s sexy nightgown, or Mana-Yiayia hiding under a table with baked goods, or Mana-Yiayia pretending to sleep – pretty much Mana-Yiayia doing anything (token old-lady comic relief). Many films have tackled boisterous family constructs, or middle-aged parents who have lost their romantic spark, and, in comparison, Jones’ film offers nothing in the way of new wisdom. Just Joey Fatone shooting intimidating gazes, the way his character might glare at a gyro platter he’s about to demolish.
That said, the collective quirk of this kooky Greek congregation has its undeniable charms. A mafioso chemistry between Niko (Louis Mandylor) and Angelo (Fatone) continually gets laughs, Aunt Voula’s (Andrea Martin) no-filter dialogue *sometimes* strikes a shocking high, and Kampouris’ embarrassed reactions hit upon the teenage angst many of us felt (or still feel) towards our righteously uncool parents. As far as dysfunction goes, Greeks just do it better (apparently).
On a weaker note, Toula’s attempts to stop fixing everything lead to a more restrained Vardalos who struggles to meet Corbett’s romantic attempts, while Gus and Marie take center stage. Expect elongated scenes of old people failing miserably to use technology, talking dirty, and praising their oily homeland – because old people doing young people things is funny! It’s an age-old methodology that’s all sorts of made-for-TV cheesy, and about as funny as an Uncle who tells the same joke during every dinner party without fail.
Excuse my snark – it’s not out of hatred, but more an underwhelmed sense of genre dynamics that have no sense of ambition. We’re given the equivalent of stale Baklava that’s been sitting uncovered for about a month. There’s nothing fresh, or provocative, or genuinely inspired – a sitcom mentality that pulls no punches. So, for those of you diehard Zorba’s fans out there, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 does its base-level duty of catching you up with familiar characters, but, outside of nostalgia, this romantic re-connection is more “Eh” than “Opa!”
Another week, another decade-old sequel that struggles to justify its own existence when originality could have been achieved elsewhere.