I distinctly remember "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" --- it was the first film David and I reviewed. Though not a critics' favorite --- we thought it was pretty darn cute, and that it would do well at the box office. But even creator Nia Vardalos couldn't predict it would fare as well as it did --- earning more than $245 million in the U.S. alone.
Now, 14 years later, Vardalos has written a sequel, directed by Kirk Jones ("Nanny McPhee", "Waking Ned Divine" --- one of the most hilarious films ever). The premise is rather sweet, even though it has been done many times before. From the trailer it is apparent that Toula (Vardalos) and her husband Ian (John Corbett) are concerned about their 17-year-old daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), leaving them.
But she really does want to go away to college. She does not want to stay in Chicago and attend Northwestern University in Evanston. Instead, the wedding celebration belongs to Toula's parents, Maria (Lainie Kazan) and Gus (Michael Constantine), after Gus learns that their marriage certificate was never signed by the priest.
Now, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" could have gone either way. Unfortunately, Vardalos' screenplay this time out is not nearly as original, endearing or amusing as the first. The Windex has returned --- but it's lost its ability to make things shine. Even Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) is trying too hard to be entertaining.
What made the first movie so popular were the all-encompassing issues that many families face and must deal with. Vardalos has tried again to flesh out those types of problems, i.e., sullen, uncommunicative teenagers, couples who have drifted apart, college acceptances, aging parents, etc., but she forgets to interject the humor.
One of the funniest scenes concerns a date night. Toula's not looking very sexy these days, in fact she looks downright dowdy. At the behest of Aunt Voula, she arranges a dinner out with Ian. She arrives at the restaurant looking gorgeous, explaining that it only took several hours and $500. Ian laughs, then says what? --- how much? Men have no clue! This is hilarious.
One of the gags which falls the flattest centers around Gus unable to get out of his bathtub. Ian and Toula's brothers try desperately to extract him, with no luck, but a lot of the usual bathroom humor ensues. Not so funny.
I'm very disappointed for Vardalos, the returning cast members and all of her fans. They and we deserve better after waiting all these years.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
With a few rare exceptions, sequels generally don't fare as well as the original hit movie. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" surprised the film world in 2002 by eventually grossing $368 million worldwide on a tiny budget of only $6 million. Writer/star Nia Vardalos concocted a script that was clever, original, poignant and most importantly, funny. Vardalos waited 14 years to release the follow-up, predictably titled "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2". We waited that long for this??
Despite essentially the same likeable cast from the original, Vardalos' script doesn't offer any real opportunities for laughs. However, I suspect that today's 17-year-olds --- who were toddlers in 2002 --- may identify with the newest cast member, Elena Kampouris, who plays Toula (Vardalos) and Ian's (John Corbett) daughter Paris, who is deciding where to go to college.The usual family drama is invoked, i.e., parents want their daughter to stay close to home, in Chicago, so Northwestern is an option. She wants to go to NYU --- blah, blah, blah.
The movie misses out on dealing with real family issues, like Angelo's (Joey Fatone) coming out of the closet, which is glossed over in mere seconds. Instead we get ridiculous scenes like Gus (Michael Constantine), mostly drunk on ouzo, yukking it up with his brother Panos (Mark Margolis) and another man. This would ordinarily be no big deal, but it occurs at the restaging of his wedding (huh?) to wife Maria (Lainie Kazan) in a church, in front of an audience filled with friends and relatives.
Speaking of Gus, he still employs Windex as a panacea for the world's ills. The gag was relatively funny in the first film, not so much here. There is a new recurring joke that is mildly amusing --- it's called "Pull My Neck", designed to temporarily get rid of turkey neck in older people during picture taking. Still, I didn't laugh once.
The multi-talented Andrea Martin returns as Aunt Voula, but even her energy can't save "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2". The most natural, down-to-earth performance belongs to Corbett, who doesn't overact, unlike most of the rest of the cast. And the fact that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are producers is irrelevant.
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" will find its fans, based on our screening audience's reaction. They tend to be less critical, and more likely to find humor where it doesn't exist. Maybe the biggest winner will be the S.C Johnson Company --- look for a spike in Windex sales.
Opinion: Don't Bother!