Ever been to a wedding where you don't know anyone very well? It's pretty deadly, no matter how good the food or the band might be. Everyone's laughing really hard at jokes you don't find funny, or even understand.
On the other hand, if you know and love everyone, you'll have fun even if the champagne is flat and the canapes soggy.
And that, dear moviegoer, is about as deep as we need to go in analyzing "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2," an overstuffed, under-achieving sequel that took more than a decade to come to the screen. If you've been dying for a reunion with those aggressively lovable folks known as the Portokalos family, maybe you'll be happy. But if you didn't miss them that much or, maybe didn't even know them in the first place, stay away from this wedding. Send a gift and call it a day.
The fact that the film took 14 years to arrive —Nia Vardalos is again the star and writer — is both a blessing and a curse. It may have stoked huge interest — the original was a ginormous sleeper hit — but it also implies that we're about to see something worth the wait. Instead, the script is a tired pastiche of what seem like the same gags we heard the first time. Greek families are big and affectionate! Greek families get involved in each other's business! Greek families smother you with love! And so on.
We begin in snowy Chicago, where Toula (Vardalos) is still married to her Waspy hunk of a husband, Ian (John Corbett, amiable but peripheral), now the high school principal. Her father, Gus (Michael Constantine), is still very much the patriarch, a man who swears he's related to Alexander the Great and believes that every word in the English language comes from Greek, even "Facebook." The rest of the gang is back, too, including Lainie Kazan as Toula's mom, Maria, and the terrific Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula, who still likes to talk raunchy.
But 14 years HAVE passed; Toula and Ian are now parents of a high school senior, pretty Paris (Elena Kampouris), who's aching to spread her wings. Paris rolls her mascara-heavy eyes when her grandfather, on the way to school, instructs her to quickly find a Greek boy and marry him.
Such grandfatherly advice is par for the course, but poor Paris really suffers when this theme is stretched to ridiculous proportions as the entire clan — cousins, aunts, uncles — shows up at the school's college fair, where they virtually accost the representative from Northwestern and threaten him with punishment should Paris not be admitted. Oh, families. So silly.
This is a recurring problem with the film, directed by Kirk Jones; what seemed quirky and funny in the original is exaggerated to un-funny extent here. It's as if Vardalos was trying to take things to a darker, more interesting place, but at every such turn, got scared and went for slapstick humor instead.
And so we have an extended scene in which Gus gets stuck, naked, in his bathtub, and the entire family comes to extract him. But they have to cover his private parts with a towel! And that's about the extent of the joke!
But OK, given the title, there's got to be ... a wedding, right? Well, Toula's already married, and Paris is too young. And so, we have a plot device whereby Gus discovers that his original marriage license from Greece was never signed.
Time for a wedding! More importantly, time for a wedding-dress shopping montage! Because that's what every movie in the history of cinema has done when a woman needs a wedding dress!
Of course, there are a few obstacles along the way. But we all know that we'll get our happy wedding, some way, somehow. And you'll surely smile at a few points — who's not a sucker for a big wedding, right?
It's only when those credits roll that you'll likely find yourself thinking: 14 years, for this?
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2," a Universal Studios release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America "for some suggestive material." Running time: 94 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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