Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Kirk Jones
Stars: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lanie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Elena Kampouris, Alex Wolff, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Louis Mandylor, Bess Meisler, Bruce Grey, Ian Gomez, Jayne Eastwood, Mark Margolis, Rob Riggle, Rita Wilson, John Stamos.
The original My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a huge box office hit way back in 2002, grossing some $300 million at the box office, so it would seem that a sequel was inevitable. But it has taken nearly fourteen years for writer and creator Nia Vardalos to come up with a satisfying sequel. In the interim we had the short lived 2003 tv series My Big Fat Greek Life, which kept us in touch with the extended Potokalos family and their tribulations. This crowd pleasing sequel reunites the key cast from the original film, and easily captures the flavour of the original.
Toula (played by Vardalos) and her husband Ian (John Corbett, from tv series Northern Exposure, etc) are having a few difficulties in their relationship as most of the family members rely on her to resolve their personal problems, leaving her little time for her own family. Their perpetually angry and rebellious teenage daughter Paris (played by newcomer Elena Kampouris) is ready to go off to college, and seems determined to pick one that will take her far away from home. Toula soon begins to realise that she is almost becoming like her own mother – suffocating and clinging and domineering.
Meanwhile Toula’s father Gus (Michael Constantine) has become obsessed with trying to prove that he is a direct descendant of Alexander the Great. Toula sets him up on a website that allows him to trace his ancestry. But while rummaging through some old documents Gus discovers his marriage certificate. To his consternation he realises that it wasn’t signed by the priest before they left for the US. He and his long suffering wife Maria (Lanie Kazan) plan to rectify the oversight by staging their own big fat greek wedding. Chaos ensues in the lead up to the hurried wedding as the entire extended family become involved, and this causes tension between Gus and Maria.
But unlike the first film which explored the clash of cultures with Toula’s wedding to a non-Greek man, this sequel is fairly straightforward. However, a number of subplots keep it pretty busy. Vardalos’ script explores the dynamics of this extended and quite eccentric family unit, dealing with aging parents, and the film plays up many stereotypes for big laughs here. It also reworks many of the usual cliches of the romantic comedy genre. Most of the gags hit the mark, but somehow it all seems a little dated. It’s almost as if time has stood still for Vardalos and her style of comedy.
Taking over directorial chores from Joel Zwick is British filmmaker Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine, Nanny McPhee, etc) and he demonstrates a deft touch with the material, and keeps things moving along at a cracking pace.
Vardalos has created some strong female characters here, including her straight talking and headstrong Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), who has a disregard for the conventions of polite society. She quickly takes charge of the wedding preparations and she dominates the film with her strong and irrepressible performance. She also gets some of the best lines. Kazan clearly has a ball as the outspoken Maria. Kampouris is also good as the daughter discovering her own independence and trying to break away from Toula’s apron strings. And mute granny (played by Bess Meisler) is a comic highlight with her reactions to the chaos around her.
Of all the male characters here only Constantine’s irascible family patriarch Gus stands out. He also has a ball here as Gus, who still believes that Windex is the panacea for all that ails him and that every word is of Greek origin. Corbett has a nice genial presence although his character is not exactly given a lot of note to do this time around.
Most of the characters here are very likeable, and they are warm and their flaws and foibles recogniseable. But Vardalos introduces us to a few new characters here who add a fresh note to the material. We meet veteran Mark Margolis as Gus’ estranged brother who shows up for the wedding, and John Stamos (from tv series Full House) and Rita Wilson (who with her husband Tom Hanks has produced both the original and this sequel) as newly arrived neighbours who get caught up in the wedding preparations. And Alex Wolff plays Bennett, the quiet boy from school whom Paris develops a relationship.
Unlike many recent romantic comedies which seem to be laboured, over long and too heavily reliant on crass humour for cheap laughs, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a genial crowdpleaser that should prove to be another winner, especially with those audiences who enjoyed the original.