Maybe we’re hitting the peak of franchise-making in Hollywood. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was the fifth biggest film of 2002 domestically, and it was the highest grossing film that wasn’t a sequel or based on a preexisting property. Fourteen years later, though, it’s getting a belated sequel (that thankfully ignores My Big Fat Greek Life and the random changes that sitcom made to the characters). My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a hit, of course, but it was a self-contained narrative. So what does My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 do besides bring back the family from the first film?
As it turns out, both a lot and nothing. At the end of the first film, Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) have settled into domestic life with their six-year-old daughter, Paris. Now 17, Paris (Elena Kampouris) is a high school senior who’s busy looking at colleges – preferably colleges far away from Chicago, to the despair of her parents and Toula’s family. Toula’s smothering neediness towards Paris has essentially turned Toula into a woman resembling the meddlesome members of her family.
Because a film with this title needs to have a big, fat Greek wedding, it turns out that Toula’s parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) were technically never officially married. There’s some solid material here, particularly for Kazan, who suggests plenty of regrets that have built up over a lifetime in the push for her to remarry. Maria has worked without pay her entire life for a cranky old man obsessed with his Greek nationality. The film unfortunately rushes through the remarriage storyline too quickly to give her ample room to play these bits of sadness that are clearly present.
Part of what made My Big Fat Greek Wedding work was that it pitted Toula and Ian against her crazy family, particularly Gus, over Toula’s ability to make her own decisions in life. That basic rivalry, friendly as it may have been, is absent this time, and the film suffers for it. This time, we get smaller confrontations between characters, with none of them getting enough time to flesh themselves out as legitimate concerns. Toula and Ian apparently have problems in their marriage, though we find this out mainly from being told they have issues. Until that point, everything appears fine. The same applies to the relationship between Gus and Maria, and even to a degree between Paris and her parents. There are way too many small subplots (and I’m not even touching on a number of even smaller ones) to give anything here the weight that was afforded to Toula and Ian’s courtship the first time around.
Instead, the film falls back on what audiences seemed to love the first time. That means more material for the parents, more chances for Toula’s grandmother and aunt to do and say crazy things, and more running jokes about the healing powers of Windex and the Greek origins of any word. All of this is fine, I suppose, but the film does hint at some deeper potential content. The passage of time is present early on, and hinted at often enough, but rarely explored in a way to give it substance. It’s a waste of an opportunity, with Vardalos choosing to emphasize a sentimental laugh over a stronger story nearly every chance she’s given. Fans of the original may find plenty to amuse them here (and there’s plenty of opportunity for that), but My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 fails to deliver anything more than that.