As we learned earlier this year from Zoolander 2, if you have to wait over a decade to make a sequel to your surprise comedy hit, perhaps it’s better to leave well enough alone. Then again, when your hit is as light and airy as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, there’s not much harm in dipping into the well again. While it lacks the focus of its predecessor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a surprisingly charming hodgepodge of family comedy antics that occasionally dips into the mawkish and sentimental, but remains mostly a sweet, cute movie that lets us enjoy spending a little more time with the Portokaloses.
While the first movie was a simple romantic comedy that looked at the travails of Toula’s (Nia Vardalos) love life as she tried to introduce her fiancée Ian (John Corbett) to her big, fat, Greek family, this time around, the story is more of a juggling act. Toula and Ian are trying to find a way to revitalize their marriage when Toula is so busy trying to fix everything in their extended family. Their daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) is suffering from the same family stress Toula suffered in the first movie, and eager to get away to college. The “wedding” of the title comes in when Gus (Michael Constantine) learns that the priest never signed the marriage certificate to Maria (Lainie Kazan). Rather than being angry, Maria is amused and demands a new proposal and a proper wedding from the stubborn Gus, who also launches another subplot about how he believes he’s directly descended from Alexander the Great.
In some ways, Wedding 2 suffers from the usual fatigue of comedy sequel-itis. It leans a little too heavily on gags that worked from the original, so there’s a lot more of Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), the wacky Mana-Yiayia (Bess Meisler) popping up at random moments, and requisite callbacks to the jokes that landed the first time around. And yet, director Kirk Jones turns these perceived weaknesses into strengths. Martin really can carry as much as the movie needs her to. Mana-Yiayia is a bit of a cartoon character, but also gets to have some of the movie’s nicest moments.
Admittedly, the A-plot of a long lost marriage certificate requiring a new Greek wedding may be a little contrived, it’s a small price to pay to see all of the characters back together again, and, like the first My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it makes for a nice movie that occasionally veers between corny and endearing. It’s surprising that a sequel, the existence of which usually marks a cynical cash grab, could be so earnest, but Vardalos, who also wrote the screenplay, has new things to say about this time in her life.
Rather than use the gap in time as a weakness or poke fun at being “old” (a la Zoolander 2), My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is an observation on a different time in life. Now instead of telling a story about a single woman trying to find love, it’s about a mother trying to find her place in her constantly changing family. The family is the lens for the sequel, and while it can encompass a little too much, it should feel a little unwieldy when you consider the personality of the Portokaloses.
Usually, when we use the term “family film”, it really means “children’s film”. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a “family film” for adults. It’s for the older members of the family who will recognize themselves in the movie’s various plotlines. It’s for parents who don’t want their children to leave the nest, but also want more time to themselves. It’s for grandparents who still feel a loving bond for each other after decades of being together. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 may not be as direct and sharp as the 2002 original, but it’s still got a big, fat, Greek heart.