It's not exactly a bar-raising sequel, but My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 has enough of its predecessor's charm and sincerity to earn a passing grade.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 picks up with Toula Portokalos-Miller (Nia Vardalos), her husband Ian (John Corbett), and Toula's eccentric - and still extremely close-knit - Greek family in the present day, where Toula and Ian's daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) is now seventeen years old and on the verge of graduating from high school. Toula, facing the possibility that Paris will decide to attend a college far away from Chicago, tries to avoid over-crowding her daughter by keeping busy caring for her parents - her father Kostas/"Gus" (Michael Constantine) in particular - and helping run the family restaurant. At the same time, Toula and Ian attempt to recapture the spark in their marriage, as their relationship has been weighed down by the burdens of work and family (Tula's, to be exact).
However, the whole Portokalos clan is thrown for a loop when Kostas learns that he and Toula's mother Maria (Lainie Kazan) were not officially married fifty years ago like they had believed - and, in turn, Maria demands that Kostas now propose to her again, so that they can have a proper Greek wedding this time around. But will coming together for yet another wild Greek celebration help the various members of the Portokalos family to work out their problems?
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was very much a sleeper hit back in 2002, costing $5 million to produce and grossing $368 million in theaters worldwide - at the same time, winning the favor of critics and general audiences with its formulaic, yet enjoyable, romantic-comedy proceedings. Following a short-lived TV followup titled My Big Fat Greek Life (which came out in 2003), the movie sequel has arrived at last fourteen years later, in the form of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2: a second installment in the comedy franchise that is surprisingly uncynical in temper, considering that it could have been a pure cash-grab. That's not to say the My Big Fat Greek Wedding sequel is more than a glorified feature-length sitcom... but it's not just a hollow retread of its predecessor, either.
Whereas My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a rom-com with a culture-clash at the core of its story, the sequel (which, like its predecessor, was written by Vardalos) reflects on the experience of being married and having children - and the effect this has on a person's priorities, over time. Vardalos' insights on these matters aren't necessarily profound, yet give rise to a storyline that stands apart from that of its predecessor in a meaningful fashion; in turn, allowing My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 to unfold as a proper continuation of the initial chapter in this series and not merely a recycling. The central narrative threads here likewise form a thin, yet overall cohesive thematic through-line that is informed by Vardalos' observations; and while there are a couple of subplots in the sequel that feel somewhat extraneous (read: they could have been trimmed from the script), Vardalos nonetheless pays off every story thread in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 by the movie's end.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 does include a number of references and call-backs to jokes featured in its predecessor, but it's unexpectedly restrained in that regard - instead putting new spins on old familiar gags, while at the same time serving up fresh character-based comedy that revolves around the changes in technology and lifestyles since the first installment was released over a decade ago. Director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine, What to Expect When You're Expecting) stages the film's proceedings in an unremarkable, yet steady-handed fashion while using Filmmaking 101 techniques (see: straight-forward montages, cross-cutting for thematic effect) in order to better maintain a brisk pace throughout and keep the story flowing along smoothly. In the end, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 doesn't leave a strong impression, but it avoids wearing out its welcome too, as a result of Jones' simple, yet clean directorial approach and Vardalos' equally competent (no more, no less) screenwriting style.
It helps that Nia Vardalos and John Corbett have the same easy-going chemistry in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 as they had in the first installment, adding a layer of sweetness to the relationship between an older Toula and Ian - even if neither character is better-developed or that different from how they were in the original movie. Similarly, the various members of the Portokalos family are the same two-dimensional, yet likable eccentric personalities as they were in the first movie; that includes both Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan as the family's traditionalist patriarch Kostas and matriarch Maria, respectively, and Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula (whose bizarre anecdotes about her health and sex life continue to be a highlight in the sequel). Unfortunately, new franchise addition Elena Kampouris (American Odyssey) as Paris is upstaged by her costars through no fault of her own - as My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is more Toula's story than it is her daughter's, in the end.
The rest of the Portokalos clan in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 - Gia Carides as Cousin Nikki, Joey Pantone as Cousin Angelo, Gerry Mendeicino as Uncle Taki, and so forth - are the same endearing, but utterly cartoonish 'types' that they were in the original My Big Fat Greek Wedding, while Bess Meisler as the (very old) Mana-Yiayia oscillates between being a (somewhat literal) running joke and a plot device that inspires tender exchanges in-between various characters. There are a handful of 'special appearances' in the film too, most of which amount to harmless, but on the whole forgettable cameos; that includes John Stamos and producer Rita Wilson (who's married to fellow producer Tom Hanks), playing a Greek couple in what is largely a disposable subplot that mostly amounts to setup for a single joke.
It's not exactly a bar-raising sequel, but My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 has enough of its predecessor's charm and sincerity to earn a passing grade. While many belated comedy sequels try and fall short of providing a fun reunion for moviegoers and the outlandish characters they loved in the first installment (see Dumb and Dumber To, Zoolander 2, and so forth), My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 succeeds in that regard - assuming, of course, that you were a fan of My Big Fat Greek Wedding to begin with. Indeed, the sequel has the same shortcomings as its predecessor (and then some), but many of its strengths too - and a sincerity that makes up for its lack of substance. For these reasons, those filmgoers who weren't enamored with the first My Big Fat Greek Wedding need not apply here either. As for everyone else: you might enjoy attending a second Portokalos family wedding more than you would think.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 94 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material.
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