By Kirby Davis, For The Miami Student
The film industry is swarming with sequels. Some ("Captain America: Civil War," Independence Day: Resurgence," the eighth "Star Wars" movie) promise to be worthwhile, while others (the third "Purge" film, the entire "Divergent" franchise) are just redundant, money-making cesspools of mediocrity.
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" has landed itself in the middle, precariously straddling the line between pandering to a nostalgic audience and thoughtfully reviving a beloved rom-com staple.
In the original's conclusion, Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) were sending their daughter Paris off to Greek school. She protested, wanting to be a Girl Scout like her American friends instead.
Now 17, Paris (Elena Kampouris) is still grappling with her dual heritage. Among a gaggle of Greek cousins who voluntarily kiss their mothers and carve Parthenons out of soap, the broody teen contends with simultaneously embracing her heritage and shielding herself from it with the threat of attending college out of state. Her angst-ridden ascent into adulthood mirrors Toula's almost exactly, and Toula's response mirrors her parents' in the first film as well. The parallels are a little heavy-handed.
But Paris isn't the film's main concern. Chaos commences when Toula's father (Michael Constantine) discovers that his and Maria's (Lainie Kazan) marriage certificate wasn't signed by a priest, meaning they were never officially wed. Maria is unfazed, but the traditionalist patriarch demands that they hold a real, legal ceremony.
Toula, a beacon of practicality in her frenzied family, works to "fix" all of their issues with the fervor of "Scandal's" Olivia Pope & Associates. But she neglects Ian in the process and the film becomes a side-by-side comparison of hers and her parents' struggling marriages.
There's a lot going on in "Greek Wedding 2" - maybe too much. While the original adhered to a singular focus, the sequel tries to cover too many bases. Almost the entire original cast has returned, and then some - most of them have procreated, nearly doubling the onscreen population. New additions Rita Wilson and John Stamos also pop up as a couple whose sole purpose, seemingly, is to look pretty and be Greek. Masses of side characters provide screenwriter Vardalos with a surplus of opportunities for distracting side plots and, unfortunately, she takes advantage of most of them.
This is no longer a simple multicultural love story like its predecessor. It's a raucous, overcrowded spectacle.
We can thank Rita Wilson for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." She saw it when it was still a one-woman production in Canada (penned by and starring Vardalos). Wilson convinced husband Tom Hanks to produce a film adaptation and the next year saw it skyrocket to the title of highest-grossing romantic comedy ever made, despite being an independent film.
Fourteen years later, the film relies on archetypal personalities and a lot of tired tropes to move it along, but Vardalos' writing makes normally tired scenes - Kostas' exasperated children attempting to teach him how to use a computer, a tentative prom date, clandestine car sex - earnest and hilarious. It does suffer, as most family-oriented flicks do, from excessive campy moments. But the authenticity from Vardalos' (and most of the cast's) genuine Greek backgrounds, as well as the undercurrent of relatability that propelled the original to fame, help maintain its dysfunctional appeal throughout.
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" is not groundbreaking. But it still works - and not just because of the return of Ian's illustrious shoulder-length mane. The Portokalos-Miller family's shenanigans aren't just relatable to Greek-Americans - everyone with a horrifically inappropriate aunt or shamelessly misogynistic older male relative can identify with them. This film may have been unnecessary, but it does prove, one all-healing spritz of Windex at a time, that not all unnecessary sequels are condemned to being terrible.
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