If you were born after or just never got around to seeing the film in the first place, it may be hard to realize just how much of a big deal the original “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was.
It came out of nowhere and became (at the time) the most successful independent film ever made. Why exactly it connected with so many people (and to that degree) is anyone’s guess, but nevertheless the first film is a sweet, funny little movie and luckily so is this new film, just not quite to the same level.
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 3.5
If you’ll remember, the first film was about Toula deciding to make some changes in her life, meeting a non Greek man and getting engaged while also trying to make sure her crazy family didn’t scare him off. For “My Big Fat Greek Wedding II” the plot (again written by star Nia Vardalos who has aged beautifully BTW) is about after years of marriage and child raising Toula has settled into her life, but her daughter Paris is getting ready to graduate high school and is looking to move away for college. Being a teenager she’s driven partly by a desire to get away from her family. Meanwhile the main focus (and wedding because… title) is that Toula’s parents find that they are technically not married due to an unsigned marriage license and decide to “re-marry” while Toula tries to solve all of these issues herself. So while it provides lots of reasons to repeat gags from the first film, the plot that they came up with does support it. The cinematography and directing is nothing special. It doesn’t look awful or amateurish but it’s nothing that you’ll remember as this is film more about the characters.
A big part of the film’s appeal is based on how much you enjoy these characters. It’s actually quite amazing how they seemed to have gotten just about all of the original actors back. Even the grandma is still the same actress, which is astounding. Everyone slips right back into their roles and while they’re broad, over-the-top characters (understandable as the film started off as a one woman comedy show by Vardalos) the actors once again find that right balance to keep them human. You don’t have to be Greek to “get” the family, in fact you’ll probably be reminded of your own families’ quirks and that’s what has always been at the heart of these films. Still the broad over-the-top-ness of them may turn some viewers off, but I think if you look carefully you can see the more subtle layers. We also get a surprise cameo from John Stamos and Rita Wilson (which I assume is a “thank you” for her help in getting the original made). John Corbett returns as Toula’s husband Ian and if I have one major criticism of this and the last movie it’s with this character. He’s very bland, just a little too perfect and loving. However, like the first film I found myself being okay with it as there was just something very charming about him and Toula being together. Maybe it’s just the natural charisma of Corbett himself, but it still isn’t enough to ignore how generic Ian is. I get it, he’s a straight man (comedy term meaning the “normal” foil to the funny people (think Bud Abbott or Rashida Jones in “Parks and Rec”)) and he sets things up well for other people to deliver the jokes, but it would have been nice if they could have made him a more interesting character.
Entertainment Value – 4
Now I can totally understand if you feel like this is all a re-hash of the first film. I must admit that I was unable to find a copy to refresh myself on it beforehand. I know it’s been a long time in between movies and lots of time for fans to know it inside and out. This film doesn’t try to recreate the story exactly, but it also doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel either. Like I said earlier about the first film, a big part of the charm of it was how it came seemingly out of nowhere and caught us all off guard. This film by its very nature of being a sequel can’t do that, it can’t truly take us by surprise again. There’s probably some fear that this will turn out like the sitcom “My Big Fat Greek Life.” I don’t normally say this because most of the time it comes off as obnoxious but…I bet you forgot that was even a thing, didn’t you? So really all that can be asked of the film is to be entertaining and I honestly thought it was.
Much like the first film, the sequel gets by largely on it’s charm. As I said earlier, Ian is still kinda bland but he does get a number of nice scenes. One in particular when he’s talking to his own father towards the end. It’s not needed but it was nice scene. I also really liked how the two families have really integrated into an even bigger family. However, one thing that really caught me by surprise was when one of the cousins is revealed to be gay (I can’t remember if the original hinted at that at all) and the family doesn’t care. There’s nothing wrong with it at all in their minds. In this day-and-age that may not seem all that novel, but remember that a big part of the charm of the family is just how traditional they are so I thought it was a great thing to show you can be traditional without being backwards. There’s also speech from Toula’s mom near the end about women’s roles and marriage in the present that may rub some people the wrong way in her conclusion, but then again the debate itself tends to rub different people differently. One of my biggest question marks was the daughter and how that would work with the plot. I think they worked her very well into the ensemble. She has a story arc but never feels like she’s taking over the film which is good because it can be a tough balance to strike. I was also worried from her first scene that she would just be a mopey teenager constantly raining on the film’s parade. While she is like that at the start she really develops throughout the film and manages to get some very nice scenes that actually made her really strong as a character (asking out to prom scene) and a resolution that isn’t a cop-out. In addition to that there are some very interesting scenes of characters discussing marriage that as a single man I can’t speak to how true they are, but they added to the sense that Nia Vardalos had more to say than just putting together a cash grab sequel.
I and the audience that I saw the film with laughed throughout even after a fire alarm went off, and started over again once that was all sorted out. Sure there are plenty of jokes that are repeated from the original, but almost all of them have some sort of spin on them to keep them from seeming too old. Also, it showed some restraint in one of the most famous gags from the first film, Windex. It really only appears twice and never overstays it’s welcome. Not all of the jokes work like Toula repeating the “why do you want to leave me?!” line from the original. The context and the fact while the father (who said it in the first film) was such a bigger than life character… it did feel a little forced coming from Toula who remains a much more “normal” character. Also, I could have done without a few of the old people don’t understand new technology jokes; it never goes overboard however it was beginning to bother me.
Rewatchability – 3
I am planning to give it another watch someday, but I can’t imagine it will become like a “Grumpier Old Men” or “Addams Family Values” case where I can’t watch the first film without wanting to also watch its sequel. However, a very good thing about this film is how much it made me want to re-watch the original.
If you loved the first film you will probably enjoy "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" reunion with the family. If you didn't then I doubt this will suddenly change your mind, but then why would you bother going to see it? While it's not a great film, it does keep that same love for family and never feels like a true re-hash. Also, getting all the same people back after all of this time and having them slip so perfectly back into their respective roles makes it a fun little flick. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.