Sunday, October 15, 2023

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3: A Review (Review #1760)



I believe it was film critic Richard Roeper who observed that when a franchise was running out of steam, the cast would go to another country for the newest film. Case in point: The Bad News Bears Go to Japan. Now having overwhelmed Americans with humorous Hellenists, Nia Vardalos steps behind the camera to direct and write My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.  More like a series of ideas in search of a plot than a genuine film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 gives us lovely Greek sights and absolutely nothing else. 

Portokalos family patriarch Gus has recently died, his long-cherished dream of going back to his homeland and presenting his childhood friends with a journal unfulfilled. 

Also, Ian Miller's (John Corbett) father died as well, but we don't care about him. 

Ian's wife Toula (Vardalos) had decided she will go to Greece for the first time and fulfill her father's wishes. Also going along with her are her brother Nick (Louis Mandylor), her Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), hereto unknown Aunt Freida (Maria Vacratis), Toula and Ian's daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) and Voula's assistant and Paris' frustrated love interest Aristotle (Elias Kavacas). Voula helpfully tells us that Paris "ghosted" Aristotle, though I question whether Voula is aware of what that actually means.

Why is Gus' widow Maria (Lainie Kazan) not going? She is starting to suffer from dementia, sometimes lucid, sometimes unaware of what is going on.

Arriving in Athens, they are greeted by Victory (Melina Kotselou), the nonbinary mayor of Vrisi (Gus' birthplace) who repeatedly assures them that everything will be "OK, the best". She hopes that their arrival will spur other sons and daughters of the Aegean to return for a reunion, thus bringing tourism and even permanent settlement to her struggling town. Paris struggles with her secret of being on academic probation as well as what she wants with Aristotle. Nick, when not shaving or clipping his toenails at the breakfast table, is searching for the oldest tree in Vrisi for mysterious reasons. The extended family is shocked to discover that Gus had a love child even he was unaware of. 

Their half-brother Peter (Alexis Georgoulis) is truly Gus' son, as he is not thrilled that his own son Christos (Giannis Vasilottos) is in love with Qamar (Stephanie Nur), a pretty young Syrian refugee. That, of course, will require a Big Fat Greek Wedding, won't it? 

Will Nick find the giving tree? Will hurriedly imported cousins Nikki (Gia Carides) and Angelo (Joey Fatone) be able to track down Gus' old friends in time for the reunion/wedding? Will Vrisi's fabled waters flow again?

Here is the big takeaway from My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3: it was Nia Vardalos' vacation video. I have long thought that acting is actually a hard profession. You have to endure a lot of rejection. You have to craft a variety of characters that may or may not reflect your authentic self and do it convincingly to audiences who pay to see you embody someone else. Sometimes your success or failure depend on your looks. 

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 reminds me though, that at times actors also get to go on paid vacations to luxurious locales and not have to put in any real work.

Nia Vardalos does not have a script. What she has are a whole slew of ideas swimming around, with no direction or reason or connection to the other ideas. Ultimately, she opted to throw every idea in and see what would happen. Even at its 92-minute running time (which makes it the shortest of the Big Fat Greek Wedding films), there is nothing there. She could have focused on the reunion element. She could have focused on Gus' bastard child. She could have focused on the Christos-Qamar romance.

Instead, she just focused on the beautiful Greek vistas, and to be fair, they are beautiful. 

I imagined so many other scenarios that would have worked infinitely better than what Vardalos came up with. What if we start with the family discovering that Gus had a child when he comes to Gus' funeral or as part of an estate issue? That estate issue would require them to go to Greece. What if Ian and Toula decide that with Paris now about to graduate, they could go on a second honeymoon (which inevitably was used by the others for a vacation)? What if Maria and Voula decided to take Gus' ashes to the old country and Toula, forever anxious, followed them to make sure that they were safe (which inevitably was used by the others for a vacation)? What if Paris quit college and try to make a run for it but somehow ended up in Greece? What if Paris worked on a cruise that landed in Greece and decided to elope in the motherland, requiring all the Portokalos clan to rush there to either stop or celebrate it?

As a side note, it strikes me as very strange that after twenty-plus years, this is the first time the Portokalos family has ever gone to the old country. Given their overall fanaticism towards all things Greek, it's a wonder they went anywhere else. Maybe Athens, Georgia, but I digress.

The hodgepodge nature of the script means that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 has no focus. Worse, it has no point. The various stories never fit, so we go from one oddball point to another with no rhyme or reason. Things that Vardalos intended to be funny weren't. When she, for example, was struggling to get onto a horse, I just asked why she did not just get a stepladder or stool to mount it versus endlessly struggling to get on her pony.

Things that Vardalos intended to be touching weren't. Part of the film involves the Christos/Qaram love story. Here's the problem: we barely saw Christos and Qaram. We see them when they take Paris and Aristotle to a Greek club, but then we get sidetracked with the Portokalos Family Hijinks be it Paris' secret, Nick's boorishness and/or tree hunting and Toula's inability to hold her ouzo before we get back to their nephew's romance. Vardalos does not give us a Big Fat Greek Wedding. She gives us a tiny Greek/Syrian wedding, one that cuts off before we can get anywhere. 

Vardalos' script is so lazy that it does not even bother to make note of the time difference between Chicago and Greece. Toula, Ian and Nick call Maria to break the news about Peter to her in the morning. Let's be generous and say it is around 10 am Greece time. We see it is daytime in Chicago when the semi-lucid Maria, aided by Athena and her husband, are talking to them. However, Toula would be calling her mother at 2 am. I am, for better or worse, someone who gets hung up on details, but this is too absurd to accept. 

Vardalos' script also does not make sense when it comes to the first generation. Voula and Freida are, I think, from the same village that Gus is from, so why are they not leading things? Also, their first language is Greek, so they would not be lost in understanding things and should be the ones everyone else defers to. Instead, rather than being the ones leading the expedition, it falls on their children and even grandchildren to be the leaders. Given that their knowledge of Greek and Greece is less solid, it is such a strange choice for Vardalos as screenwriter and director to make.

I do not think poorly of Kampouris or Kacavas (the latter who had to have the obligatory shirtless shot, though the family's jaunt through a nude beach was more creepy than comic). That they had no chemistry is due in this case more to having nothing to play with than them as actors. I do not think poorly of Carides or Fatone, who were shoehorned into the film by Vardalos. I do not think poorly of Corbett, who was so relaxed that he was just enjoying getting a paid vacation. I do think well of Martin, who is so much better than what she had to work with.

I think poorly, very poorly, of Mandylor and Vardalos. The former should have told the latter that Nick may have been dim, but he would have known much better than to shave, clip his toenails and trim his ear hair at the breakfast table. The latter, for her part, came across as a bit of a scold and surprisingly unlikeable. 

There is nothing interesting, funny or touching about My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3. I have never been so enamored of this accidental franchise, but I never actively disliked to hated it as much as this film made me hate it. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 did something I have not done in the past two films. It made me actively hate Nia Vardalos. Few people have parlayed their heritage (or a seeming contempt for it) to major success as Vardalos has. I do not know why anyone bothered with this film, apart from the beautiful Greek scenery and an admittedly beautiful looking moment when the three Children of Gus go to his old tree to bring him home. 

Ultimately though, there isn't enough ouzo in the world to get me to go to another Big Fat Greek Wedding. Maybe a Big Fat Greek Funeral, but to misquote Shakespeare, we will have no more Greek weddings. 


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