“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was a genuine phenomenon in 2002, an under-the-radar indie comedy whose word-of-mouth kept it in theaters for 51 weeks, earning $368 million worldwide. That it should result in a sequel is no surprise. That the sequel should come out 14 years later and have the stink of a slapped-together rush job is where the surprise happens.
Nothing has changed since we last saw the Portokalos family, except that Toula (Nia Vardalos, also the screenwriter) and her non-Greek husband Ian (John Corbett) now have a 17-year-old daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), who’s a senior in high school and embarrassed by her enormous smothering family. Toula’s father, Gus (Michael Constantine), is still spraying Windex on everything, claiming Greek origin for all common words, and pestering unmarried females in his family (including Paris) to find Greek husbands. He and his wife, Maria (Lainie Kazan), still have a Greek restaurant.
But hold the phone, guess what? It turns out that due to a clerical error, Gus and Maria were never actually legally married! (There was a sitcom based on “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” — it ran for seven episodes in 2003 — but no, this is not a plot from it.) It would be a simple thing to have a little ceremony and make it official, but Maria, responding to a primal instinct in movie characters to manufacture conflict where there is none, says she won’t do it unless Gus proposes all romantic-like, which he didn’t do the first time. Gus is stubborn, thinks Maria is being silly, refuses to propose. Then they both get over it and start planning the wedding, only to have Maria contrive another obstacle on the day. (That one gets sorted out, too.)
The film’s plot, to the extent that it has one, is marked by that kind of lackadaisical storytelling. Every conflict that arises is weak to begin with, and then resolved posthaste. Gus has an ancient quarrel with his brother (Mark Margolis) back in Greece; the brother shows up and their differences are settled in seconds. Toula and Ian are worried that Paris will want to go to college someplace far away from home; she does; they’re OK with it after all. Cousin Angelo (Joey Fatone) isn’t married yet; turns out it’s because he’s gay; no one cares. John Stamos and Rita Wilson appear as a local newscaster and his wife, but are given nothing to do.
Vardalos’ screenplay seems stuck between two ideas. She wants to revisit every single character from the first movie, for the fans … but it often feels like she’s rushing through them, checking them off a list just so she can say she did it. In the big picture, she wants to please the fans. But when it comes to the details, she doesn’t know how. Overall, she seems to have taken a page from the Adam Sandler book of filmmaking: never mind the script, just get a bunch of your friends together and have fun!
And there is some fun to be had here, some sweet moments and a few soft chuckles amid the big, broad, stereotypical performances (which are bigger, broader, and stereotypical-er than before). Vardalos still reacts to her ludicrous family with appealing exasperation, but the character isn’t as funny now that she (Toula, not Vardalos) has had her odd-duck appearance and quirky personality smoothed over. She was the heart of the first film; here she’s just a supporting character. It’s not worth reviling, but neither is it worth seeing. As a movie, it’s a simpleton. If it were a person, it would require a caretaker and would not be able to live alone, bless its heart.
C (1 hr., 34 min.; )