'My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2': Film Review

Formulaic, but hard to resist...Opa!

The whole extended family returns for this belated sequel to the hit 2002 romantic comedy.

Few sequels live up to their titles with as much fidelity as the Nia Vardalos-scripted, belated follow-up to her 2002 smash hit comedy that grossed $245 million domestically. Reuniting the entire main cast and much of the crew of its predecessor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 concerns, you guessed it, another big fat Greek wedding. While the lengthy period between installments may have diminished some of the enthusiasm of the original's fans, this effort should garner decent box-office returns in its counter-programming slot opposite those dueling superheroes Batman and Superman.

Taking place ten years from where we left off, the sequel finds Toula (Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett), knowing what it is to be smothered by well-intentioned (yet overbearing) family, trying to use a lighter touch with their 17-year-old daughter Paris (newcomer Elena Kampouris). The high-spirited Paris is dealing with typical teenage concerns, including her infatuation with shy classmate Bennett (Alex Wolff) and deciding where to go to college. Her parents are naturally pressing her to stay in Chicago and attend Northwestern, but she, wary of her mother's endless hovering, is seriously eyeing — horrors! — NYU.

The central plot element is the revelation that, thanks to a priest having apparently forgotten to sign his name on their marriage certificate, Toula's parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) are not actually husband and wife. Maria initially laughs it off, but becomes enraged when Gus refuses to propose again and kicks him out of their marriage bed. The tension escalates, with Gus stubbornly refusing to give in, but when he gets sent to the hospital after getting stuck in the bathtub, he has a change of heart. And so the wedding preparations begin.

A running gag involves Gus desperately trying to prove that he's a direct descendant of his hero, Alexander the Greek, with much would-be humor derived from his attempting to use a computer for the first time. We also learn that Toula and Ian's love life has become rather stale, something they try to correct by making out in their car parked in front of their house, with predictably disastrous consequences.

Considering the fourteen-year gap between installments, Vardalos doesn't seem to have put a whole lot of effort into the script, as the above summary indicates. On the other hand, why should she, since the original wasn't exactly a hotbed of originality either. This sequel employs the same crowd-pleasing elements as the original, with heavy doses of broad ethnic humor, sitcom-style gags (Gus is still obsessed with Windex), and paper-thin characterizations. That it all works to the extent that it does is due to its undeniably sweet depiction of a close-knit extended family whose members truly care for and help each other. It's cinematic wish fulfillment in this era of broken families and far-off relatives who keep in touch via social media.

Amazingly, the whole gang is back, including, among others, Andrea Martin, reprising her hilarious turn as the wisecracking Aunt Voula; Gia Carides and Joey Fantone as Toula's cousins, the latter revealing a secret about his personal life; Louis Mandylor as her overprotective brother; and Bess Meisler as the elderly family matriarch, who here gets an amusing makeover. Newcomers include Mark Margolis as Gus' brother who journeys from Greece to attend the wedding, and Rita Wilson (who once again serves as producer, along with hubbie Tom Hanks) and John Stamos as a married couple who pop by periodically. All of the performers play their roles to the energetic hilt, managing to make them likeable even at their most obnoxious.

Even the settings are familiar, such as Dancing Zorba's, the bustling Greek restaurant owned and run by Toula's parents. Although the story is set in Chicago, the film was shot in Toronto, continuing that city's enviable record of being able to stand in for just about every North American metropolis.

Vardalos and Corbett display the relaxed romantic chemistry that made them so endearing to audiences in the first film (if less so in their second co-starring effort, I Hate Valentine's Day). And such veterans as Kazan and Constantine (the latter 88 years old, God bless him) demonstrate that they're still pros when it comes to getting laughs.

Newcomer director Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee, Waking Ned Devine) proves as adept as his predecessor Joel Zwick at hitting the required comic beats, and the soundtrack cleverly includes a version of Billy Idol's "White Wedding"… sung in Greek, of course. 

Production: Gold Circle Entertainment, Home Box Office, Playtone

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine, Andrea Martin, Gia Carides, Joey Fantone, Elena Kampouris, Alex Wolff, Louis Mandylor, Bess Meisler, Bruce Gray, Fiona Reido, Ian Gomez, Jayne Eastwood, Rob Riggle, Mark Margolis, Rita Wilson, John Stamos

Director: Kirk Jones

Screenwriter: Nia Vardalos

Producers: Rita Wilson, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks

Executive producers: Paul Brooks, Scott Niemeyer, Steven Shareshian, Nia Vardalos

Director of photography: Jim Denault

Production designer: Gregory Keen

Editor: Mark Czyzewski

Costume designer: Gersha Phillips

Composer: Christopher Lennertz

Casting: Jeanne McCarthy, Nicole Abellera

Rated PG-13, 94 min.