By Gabriella Shery ‘17
Set the image of a family so large, and inseparable, that they occupy an entire suburban block to the strong rhythm of Greek instrumentals, and you’ve got the Portokalos clan. Family predictably remains a driving force in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, but the distinctive comedic flare of the original is unfortunately lost in this follow-up.
As the title suggests, the Portokalos family is once again wrapped up in a wedding. But while Director Kirk Jones attempts to transport audiences back to the first My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the new film flattens the spirit and energy that he tries so hard to recreate. The sequel is crammed with jokes and scenarios so unoriginal that it brings to mind nothing more than reruns of television sitcoms. Examples of the recycled material include an overbearing mother embarrassing her daughter at school, and an old man struggling to use a computer. The height of humor, and this should be telling, arrives during the wedding planning scene, when the Portokalos family orders pink stretch limos, lime green floral arrangements, and a gaudy multi-colored, four-tiered wedding cake. It’s one of the few instances when the film seems unconcerned with recapturing the original, instead allowing itself to flourish in its own right, which may be the key to its rare successes.
The entire cast from the original is back, accompanied by a new generation of Toulas’ (Nia Vardalos) family featuring her unbelievably nationalistic father Gus (Michael Constantine) and her absurd Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin). With a bottle of Windex in hand and an unflinching enthusiasm for telling people that the root of every word is Greek, Gus reprises the role he played 14 years ago. The same goes for Voula, who remains eager to share tales of her bizarre health issues with people she has just met. Voula and Gus are only two of the film’s seemingly endless list of static characters. Any possible character development is smothered by the avalanche of rehashed and overworked jokes, and by the numerical growth of the cast, which makes accounting for, never mind appreciating, the personalities nearly impossible.
The soundtrack of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is its silver lining. Seamlessly transitioning between contemporary Greek and American pop with songs like Pou Pige Tosi Agapi by Helena Paparizou and All of Me by John Legend, the setlist captures the diversity that makes multicultural films a joy. The soundtrack flies audiences to Greece and back to the United States, embodying the conflicts and compromises between the Portokalos family’s old and new generations better than any other aspect of the movie.
It’s this conflict between the old and the new that gave substance to My Big Fat Greek Wedding and which is so glaringly absent from the sequel. Evolving gender roles, for example, are one theme explored in the original when Toula must face Gus’ resistance to her educational aspirations. Compare this to a scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 when Toula’s daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) sets off for school. The moment is ripe to recall and, more importantly, builds on the original, yet it passes without occasion. In this way, the sequel falters even when it’s closest to succeeding.
Beyond setting out the plot, characters and most of the jokes, the title My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 encapsulates the movie’s lack of originality. The amount of creativity that went into tacking on that number two is about how novel this sequel feels. Fans of the first My Big Fat Greek Wedding would do better rewatching it rather than wasting their time with the follow-up. Like Greek food, most things are better enjoyed fresh rather than reheated.