Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's All Greek To Me

Year: 2016
Director: Kirk Jones
Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine
Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes 
MPAA Rating: PG-13

We’re living in such a topsy-turvy media culture of franchise resurrection that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a career again without even lifting a finger. But it’s still insane that My Big Fat Greek Wedding got a sequel. True, a follow-up would have been a no-brainer if it was – say – 2003, because the movie was an exorbitantly profitable indie feature. But fourteen years later, who was still champing at the bit for more Big Fat Greek antics?

Well, Nia Vardalos is probably at the top of the list.

In My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, the filmmakers pop in a DVD of the original film and invert the colors, hoping you won’t notice. Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) are all grown up now and have a teen daughter named Paris (Elena Kampouris), who is a choker-sporting edgy girl straight from the halls of 10 Things I Hate About You. They’re overprotective of Paris, who is struggling to deal with the expectations of her massive Greek family.

When Toula’s parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) discover that they’re not legally married, the family enters a state of emergency. Maria wants Gus to re-propose, but Gus doesn’t feel like he has to, because… oh, who cares. At least this movie has some semblance of a conflict.

But the intervening years have not helped to disguise the grotesque age gap between these two characters.

Remember all those jokes you liked so much in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Well, so does My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and it can’t wait to tell them to you again. It’s like a slightly drunk uncle milking his limited repertoire of party tricks for all they’re worth. But there’s only so many times you can watch a massive herd of Greeks pouring through a doorway like it’s a clown car before you begin to suspect that it’s not actually funny. And that Windex running gag was never funny, so no luck there.

The new material isn’t much better. The gags have a tendency to sputter around the room like a deflating balloon, more often than not flinging themselves into an absurdist tone that the low-key family comedy can not support. One that especially weighs heavily on the film is the business with aged great-grandmother Mana Yiayia (Bess Meisler), who becomes a sort of anarchist gremlin, boldly performing the weirdest act or emerging from the least expected place whenever the camera pans to her, like a heat-seeking wackiness missile. These antics reek of sequelitis, and they have no business in a movie operating in this register.

But then again, as a college-aged person, neither do I.

Like I said, the plot has a little more conflict than the blissed-out, loosey goosey original, which is always nice. But that doesn’t mean the structure is any good. Once again, the first act is a sprawling disaster, and the film focuses more on family tomfoolery than pacing. It worked last time, but the jokes were fresh last time. Now we’re just stuck with a pile of stilted dialogue (like John Stamos – of course he’s f**king in this movie – arriving to ask if he can bring his wife and child into the restaurant with him, something nobody has done in the history of the human race, just to set up a particularly insipid reveal) and crudely compacted incident (the movie exists in one of those fictional universes where kids get all their college letters on the same day).

Also (spoilers in this paragraph, I guess), can we talk about how My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 has the most vigorously useless gay reveal this side of Star Trek Beyond? Joey Fatone’s character is revealed to be a hommasexual (you know, those dudes who stare longingly at other dudes but never embrace, kiss, talk to, or otherwise interact with them in any way?) just so the family can nod sagely and prove their open-mindedness in a scene so hilariously maudlin you’d think he just told them he had cancer. I know Hollywood’s not great at this sort of thing, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count as having a gay character if someone breathes in the direction of another man.

I literally can't find a photo of them together. A romance for the ages.

In short, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is an epic waste of your time. It highlights the many flaws of the original film by stripping away every last thing that made it good. I’m genuinely impressed they got the entire cast back, and Elena Kampouris is a lovely addition, but when you spend time with people you liked a decade ago, sometimes they’ve changed. They have in this instance, and it was definitely for the worse.

TL;DR: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is the worst kind of sequel, endlessly repeating gags and in the process exposing the flaws of the original.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 844
Reviews In This Series
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Zwick, 2002)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (Jones, 2016)

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