My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (12A) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Kirk Jones, USA, 2016, 94 mins

Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Elena Kampouris

The rumbustious, lovingly overbearing Portokalos family is back! Nia Vardalos garnered an Oscar nomination for writing the original screenplay for My Big Fat Greek Wedding back in 2002 – a story based on her own, personal experiences. Made on a relatively small budget, the film became a global hit and the highest grossing rom-com of all time. Vardalos confesses in a recent interview ‘I thought I wrote a little movie about my family. I was shocked. I still am’.

So after a surprisingly lengthy fourteen years, Vardalos returns both as actress and writer with the routinely titled My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – the original, tongue twister heading at least possessed punchiness, but now with the number 2 stuck to the end, it just smells like a franchise in the making. In today’s world of sequels and prequels, one wonders what took Vardalos so long to come up with the idea for yet another wedding.

We’re back at the boisterous family nest of Toula Portokalos (Vardalos) where the tightly packed houses of relatives, decorated in patriotic Greek colours, line the street, too close for breathing. Toula and her husband Ian (Corbett) are now a middle aged (but very pretty) couple with a teenage daughter, Paris (Kampouris) who’s constantly bewildered by the crushing love and ubiquitous presence of her entire household, including grandfather Gus (Constantine) who only wants Paris to find a good Greek boy for a husband. Meanwhile Toula, who is reminded by the ever forceful and charismatic Aunt Voula (Martin) that it’s no use to become a frumpy housewife, glams up to reignite the marital fire with Ian and to give more space to Paris – something she wanted for herself in her youth. The focus, however, shifts to Toula’s parents, when Gus discovers that his marriage certificate was never signed therefore he’s lived in sin with Maria (Kazan). Toula decides to organise another big fat Greek wedding…

Vardalos is a good enough writer – the film has great dynamism and there’s not a minute it slackens for even a moment. However, what we get is a romantic, whitewashed reality of Greek Americans peppered with tons of clichés. She piles gag upon gags and some of them are really good but she seems to shy away from any friction and ambivalence. One member of the family comes out as gay and it’s sealed with a smile and nothing else even though in conservative Orthodox Greek circles this could be a big issue. Here, it’s just a mild jest lining the way to the perfect nuptials. To a certain extent, the genre of comedy has always relied on stereotypes but Vardalos reinforces the stereotypes about Greeks as primitive outsiders which has been the object of hot debates amongst critics and scholars since My Big Fat Greek Wedding number one. The world has changed an awful lot since then and people have become even more sensitive to race relations and depictions of minorities of certain ethnicities.

The real magic and power come from the mainly elderly cast who don’t fail to entertain for an instant. Particular scene stealers are Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula and Bess Meisler playing Grandma Yiayia even though the latter is the one with the least lines and screen time in the entire movie.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is loud and enjoyable for those who aren’t sensitive to the big fat Greek stereotypes it’s stuffed with. It’s humorous and greatly diverting but lacking in genuine warmth and dramatic complexities. It’s definitely no Almodóvar.

Review by Eva Moravetz