Thursday, October 12, 2023

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2: A Review



I think those behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding were hoping for a modest hit. Instead, the wacky Hellenistic adventures of the Portokalos family took the world by storm, becoming the fifth highest-grossing film of 2002. As such, we could not leave well enough alone, and thus we got more comic Greek yogurt with My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Apparently not taking the hint from the failure of the now-forgotten sitcom My Big Fat Greek Life, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 does nothing to justify its existence. 

Toula Portokalos Miller (Nia Vardalos) and her husband Ian (John Corbett) have one daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), who is deciding where to go to college. Paris yearns to escape her intrusive and smothering but well-meaning extended family. She also yearns to get away from Toula, who cannot fully escape her helicoptering ways.

Toula's extended family is having issues of their own, particularly Portokalos patriarch Gus (Michael Constantine). He is dead-set on finding a nice Greek boy for Paris, never having fully reconciled himself to the xeno Ian lumping his branch onto his Greek family tree. As pointed out before, xenophobia is a word rooted in Greek. 

He is also having health issues, making him more cantankerous, and his ideas of being a direct descendant of Alexander the Great are driving everyone within earshot bonkers. Would it help to point out that Alexander the Great could be considered technically Macedonian and not Greek, or are we not going to even bother at this point?

Gus' determined efforts to prove his royal lineage along with trying to fix Paris up with the right boy have curious results. He discovers that through a technicality, he and Maria (Lanie Kazan) are not actually married. At first, Maria finds this news more hilarious than horrifying. It is not until Gus flat-out refuses to propose that she becomes angry. Eventually, a major health scare gets Gus to propose and Maria to accept. As such, it is time for another Big Fat Greek Wedding.

With the preparations for Gus and Maria, as well as Paris' decision on her future, Toula is at wit's end. Ultimately though, she can turn to Thia Voula (Andrea Martin) for wise, if at times far too blunt, advise. More secrets emerge and everyone rejoices in the Hellenic lovebirds coming together.

There is exactly one element in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 that I thoroughly enjoyed. That is how people outside the Portokalos family called out Gus for his own xenophobia masquerading as Greek pride. We see this early on when the family essentially crashes Paris' College Fair. The loud, boorish clan is already wildly boisterous and causing general mayhem. The nadir of this is when Paris' Uncle Nick (Louis Mandylor) literally threatened a Northwestern University recruiter (Rob Riggle) if Paris did not get in.

That recruiter, however, would not accept Gus' wild claims about anything. He particularly chastised him for suggesting that his last name was also Greek, pointing out that he was a Sephardic Jew of Spanish descent. It was nice to see someone, anyone, call out Gus on his Hellenistic nuttiness. Gus gets more comeuppance when at a physical therapy session. Here, he meets a Scotsman and a Chinese man who are just as proud of their heritage as Gus is of his. They too won't accept Gus' oddball notion that everything stems from the Aegean Peninsula. I can't quite my finger on it, but knowing that at long last, Gus' near-insufferable Greek adoration is getting pushback makes me happy.

To be fair, Gus does have one funny line, even if it is wrapped up in contempt and xenophobia. He scolds Ian for not having reproduced as much as Gus' other children Nick and Athena. "You vegetarian. One girl, slow sperm," he tells his son-in-law. 

Apart from that, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a dull dud. I put this down to Vardalos, who once again wrote the screenplay and has her voiceovers. By now, one would have that the characters would have changed somewhat, but for reasons I cannot fathom we start the film with Toula looking schlubby again. Later on, despite the severity of the situation, three grown men (Nick, Ian, and Athena's husband) appear terrified to see Gus' penis when he is unable to leave the bathtub. He isn't Noah lying naked and drunk, you know. It seems bonkers to imagine these three men so terrified of seeing their father/father-in-law naked. Embarrassing, I grant you, but so frightened.

Vardalos also introduces elements that seem, if not out of place, at least shoehorned in to get diversity points. This is primarily with regards to Toula's cousin Angelo (Joey Fatone). It is remarked more than once that he is not married, a surprise given how the family so far has been interested only in marrying off the women. Nick overhears what I thought was a very innocuous conversation between Angelo and his business partner Patrick (Jeff White). From that, Nick correctly deduces that Angelo is gay. This is quickly confirmed by Angelo's mother Voula, who asks him, "Is he your partner...or your partner?", with him admitting that Patrick is both.

From my memory of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, there was never any indication that Angelo was gay. From my memory of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, there was never any indication that Angelo was gay either. Maybe I am unaware of things, but the conversation between Angelo and Patrick that had Nick discover their Spartan friendship would have gone clear over my head. Even that shocking revelation would have worked had the Angelo/Patrick relationship been relevant to anything. 

As a side note, Angelo's family quickly and easily accepting his same-sex relationship strikes me as a bit untrue given how fanatical the Portokalos family is when it comes to tradition and family. All these people freaked out over the non-Greek Ian begins a romance with Toula, but they do not bat an eye when Angelo finally comes out with Patrick? Honestly, hearing Paris' great-grandmother Mana-Yiayia (Bess Meisler) speak flawless English to her is more shocking. I calculate Mana-Yiaya's age to be well over 100 by now, but details. At least she's not screaming about the Turks, so there's that.

Then again, Vardalos is not bothered by such things as plot or structure. As part of Gus' deranged efforts to fix Paris up with a nice Greek boy, he makes friends with local reporter George (John Stamos) and his wife Anna (Rita Wilson), who just happen to have a Greek son. The humor comes from the fact that their son is around seven years old, but apart from this gag they add nothing to whatever story Vardalos typed out.

I take that back a bit. It did give Stamos and Wilson, both of Greek heritage, a chance to appear in a Greek-centric film. Take them out though, and the film works just fine. 

Despite a short running time of 94 minutes, there is a lot you can take out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. The George & Anna bit. The Angelo & Patrick bit. Gus' fanatical if not deranged obsession to prove his connection to Alexander the Great (I'm honestly surprised that Gus did not claim he was the direct descendant of Zeus). Paris' prom date with Bennett (Alex Wolff) who also turns out to be Greek (guess there is no such thing as Greek-dar). Bizarrely, Paris' prom takes place at the exact day and time as Gus & Maria's wedding, which makes no sense on any level.

There really are two plots in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2: Paris' college choice and Gus & Maria's wedding. Everything else is just filler. It is not funny filler either, unless you have always dreamt of seeing Mana-Yiayia strutting about in a lacy negligee down the street in the middle of the night.

To be fair, there is one good element in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and that is Andrea Martin as Thia Voula. She is surprisingly levelheaded, such as when she advises Toula to have a date night with Ian and not bring up Paris in conversation on said date. Voula is not perfect. There is a montage of her, Maria and Voula's daughter Nikki (Gia Carides) rampaging wedding shops to the Greek version of Billy Idol's White Wedding with almost psychotic glee that the wedding planner they hired is openly frustrated and quits after one day. I think Corbett is just happy to be there, the super-cool yin to Vardalos' frantic and harried yang. 

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 might please people who have nothing else to do or watch. It is no surprise that it plays like a sitcom, given that it followed the flop My Big Fat Greek Life. I would not reject seeing it, but word to the wise: have more than a few shots of ouzo to get through it. 


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