Director: Kirk Jones
Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett and Michael Constantine
Running Time: 94 minutes
Release Date: March 25th
My Big Fat Greek Wedding from 2002 was a phenomenally-successful film adaptation, turning Nia Vardalos’ one-woman show into a twenty-one-person strong cast, working to complicate her life as she prepares for a ceremony that will please her overbearing Greek-American family, her husband’s WASPy family, and indeed the couple themselves. At the end of the film, the film time-jumps by six years to reveal that Toula (Vardalos) and her husband Ian (Corbett) remained happily married, had a daughter, and bought a house – on the same street as the rest of her family, her ‘close relatives’ in more ways than one.
The fact that this happens in the future – assuming the original events are set contemporaneously in 2002 – was something I briefly pondered going in. Could this film, too, be set six years in our future? In 2022, is the survival of the Portokalos-family-run Greek restaurant Dancing Zorba’s threatened by the arrival of Soylent Green?!
Unsurprisingly no, there is no sense that this is set in the future, but from its gentle classic sitcom tone, humour, values and cultural references, there is every sense that it could be set in the past.
The narrative presents Toula and Ian struggling with the imminent high school graduation and departure to college of their beloved daughter Paris, before it is revealed that Toula’s parents were never legally married. The whole family is roped in to plan a bigger, fatter, Greeker wedding for their matriarch who declares that she wants to do it ‘the right way this time.’
Fans of the original film will find much to like here – and as this was the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, there are clearly a lot of them – as it trades on the same characters and tropes we met in the original. Greek-Americans have close-knit familial relationships! That’s the joke! But it’s hard to sustain this through a whole film, giving it the tone of an hour-long special sitcom episode. The film’s humour is gentle to the point of weakness, lacking a spectacular comedy set-piece; an attempt to coax one from Toula’s father seizing up in the bath, needing to be rolled out by his children, falls flat, figuratively and literally. And many jokes feel tired, old-fashioned, occasionally offensive; like advice to pretend to faint on your wedding night to ‘let your husband take it from there.’
Troubling sex tips aside, the key romantic couplings at its heart, of Toula and Ian, and Toula’s parents Cos and Maria, are nicely explored, with moments of real pathos and humour. Certainly, My Big Fat Greek Marriage would work just as well as a title, and the film is at its most successful when trading on the emotional weight of its characters’ relationships. Richard Linklater’s Before series came to mind (though his is a more nuanced study) and I wonder whether we’re entering a new stage of seriality with romantic comedy narratives. Whether it’s finding people on Facebook or revivals of classic tv shows, the desire to follow up on people is a cultural phenomenon. Now, ‘happily ever after’ is no longer sufficient in rom-coms; we need to see the rest.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a bit like a wedding of an older family member. It’s not really necessary in this day and age, but it is sweet, good-humoured fun. If you can afford to head out for it, it might be better than staying in, but you will have to go along with a lot of outdated traditions and end up listening to exaggerated family histories for an hour and a half.