A Bit of Magic Recaptured in ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’
CHICAGO – When Paul McCartney first went on tour with his new band (Wings) in the 1970s, reporters would inevitably ask him if The Beatles would get back together. Paul had a standard answer, “You can’t reheat a soufflé.” Well, apparently baclava reheats better than that, because My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a decent follow-up to the 2002 mega-hit, amazingly reuniting all of the original cast, and finding a bit of what made the first film so popular.
The premise is a bit clunkier, and is borrowed from the sitcom world, but Nia Vardalos wrote the screenplay – as she did the first film – and was able to find those nuggets of family that generated the laughs and joy of the previous story. For every tired and wrung out scene (old man can’t use a computer), there were moments seeking clarity, which brought the whole thing back to form. Unlike Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this sequel was able to overcome a dull first (and part of the second) act, and get down to some serious Greeking.
It’s years later, but Ian (John Corbett) and Toula (Nia Vardalos) have survived their “mixed” Anglo/Greek marriage, and are anticipating that their 17-year-old daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) will choose the right college, hopefully near their Chicago-based home. The rest of their Greek family is still in their business, as they all live in the same neighborhood.
Paris is going through the teenage blues, and hates the in-your-business aspect of her grandfather Gus (Michael Constantine), grandmother Maria (Lainie Kazan) and weird Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin). When a family secret is uncovered, suddenly the focus changes to another Big Fat Greek Wedding. Once the spotlight is off her, Paris actually learns some lessons about family.
Nia Vardalos rolled the dice when she made the first movie, and famously went town-to-town with John Corbett to promote it. It went from six screens to 2,000, and eventually grossed 250 million (on a five million dollar budget, ka-ching!). Since then, Vardalos has tried to re-capture screenwriting magic with Connie and Carla, I Hate Valentine’s Day, and Larry Crowne, and the Big Fat sequel had a bunch of the stiff writing found in those examples. The pressure to deliver must have been tremendous, but besides some bits best-suited to sitcom-land – including the wedding premise – she knew what made the first one special, and applied some touches that were reminders. That is what saved it.
In essence, there was too much going on in the film, as Vardalos “shared the wealth” of screen time with even some of the minor players from the first film (her sister, brothers, cousins and even neighbors are recognizable from the first outing), and that watered down the story. But once it was all established (after about the first 40 minutes) it settled into a nice groove, with moments that not only were reminders of the previous adventure, but great on their own, especially a scene between Corbett’s Ian and his dad, Rodney (Bruce Gray).
As in the first film, the standout was Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula. The veteran comic actress had some killer scenes, mostly having to do with the various quirky health issues, like the mole that was her twin. She steals every scene she’s in, gratefully, and has a nice sequence at the wedding. Astoundingly, Toula’s old grandmother from the first film is still alive (Bess Meisler), and they use her as comic relief, which both hits and misses.
It is very notable that they were able to get the whole original cast together. There were a lot of older people in the first one, but somehow they all survived to 14 years later. That familiarity helps the movie tremendously, as if we’re going to a family reunion – so why use John Stamos and Rita Wilson? Oh yeah, Wilson and husband Tom Hanks probably made a 100 million bucks from the first one, and paid everybody else accordingly to do it again. Ka-ching! Ka-ching!
So sleep well, fans of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, they didn’t screw it up like the Bats v Supes debacle. At least one sequel released on Easter weekend can hold its own, and resurrect itself like a certain dude 2,000 years ago. We’ll see what the box office numbers look like after three days. Ka-ching!
Universal Studios Presents My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, in theaters everywhere now. Featuring Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Elena Kampouris, Joey Fatone and Bess Meisler. Written by Nia Vardalos. Directed by Kirk Jones. Rated “PG-13”