My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 review

It took a long time for a sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding to arrive. Sadly, it was not worth the wait...

Few things are as disappointingly inevitable than a sub-par sequel for a hit comedy of the past. As we know very well, everything gets a sequel these days, so it makes sense for Hollywood to turn its attention to surprise hits from over a decade ago, but some big successes were so for a reason – the perfect coalescence of time and story – and some might say it’s a fool’s errand to attempt to recreate them.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding was not one of those films. It was a hit precisely because its seemingly specific subject matter transcended cultures and time periods. It was about families welcoming in outsiders, and formerly repressed individuals defining their identity. Those things are still relevant today, yet one of the main failings of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is that it entirely, seemingly willingly, misses that point.

The film welcomes back all the old favourites, with Toula (Nia Vardalos), Ian (John Corbett) and daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) still living on the same street, helping out at the same restaurant and dealing with the same family frustrations as they were 18 years ago. This time, though, it’s the parents who are getting hitched, after Portokalos patriarch Gus (Michael Constantine) discovers that the license for his marriage to wife Maria (Lainie Kazan) was never actually legal.

The gang all arrange to chip in for the ceremony, adding the big-ness, fat-ness and Greek-ness to proceedings, while Toula and Ian navigate the realities of being two first-time parents with a daughter going off to college and no time for each other.

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Firstly, the narrative gymnastics the film has to go through in order to set up another titular wedding is excruciating to watch, with three or four other options casually drifting by as the writers attempt to shoehorn in a celebration that could have easily been substituted for a something fresher. My Big Fat Greek Christmas, for example, or Funeral, if they wanted to go a little darker.

Better yet, a story thread involving cousin Angelo (Joey Fatone) and his choice of partner would have worked beautifully.

But this is a film of missed opportunities and dropped storylines. While it’s safe to say that no one is going into this expecting depth or even particularly well-developed characters, it feels lazy in its execution. It’s biggest crime is having too many good ideas, but never following up on any of them.

There’s a story about the strain becoming a carer for elderly relatives can have on a marriage, and another about the stress of having parents (and extended families) from entirely different cultures, pulling you in two directions. These would both be better films that what My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 ultimately gets to be.

It also puts Toula right back where she started, in what I can only understand as an attempt to bring things full-circle for the audience. But really it’s just a downer, with the promise of empowerment and cultures coming together at the conclusion of the first film quickly dashed when we see Toula smothering her daughter, or working at the restaurant again, or dealing with her families problems as if she never left the nest in the first place.

The jokes are there, but there’s little wit to them this time. The original succeeded because it managed to poke fun at everyone on screen, but always with a well-meaning wink at the audience. This time, the jokes are so broad and oftentimes dumb that no such gesture is necessary. There’s also the callbacks, which are frequent enough to immediately ruin the original gags they’re referencing.

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Oh, and John Stamos is in this one!

But then something briefly changes, and a sliver of that old magic is back. A sequence near the end of the film manages to summon up such warmth that it colors the rest of the film just by being there. Suddenly it’s about something – about the experiences women have with love across multiple generations, and makes you wish that the other 90 minutes had such focus and such grace.

I wanted desperately for the entire film to capture that same indescribable, money-making magic, but the fact that it ignores almost everything it has going for it makes this a frustrating and dispiriting watch.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is in UK cinemas now.

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2 out of 5