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Film Reviews My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2: Sequel’s antics feel tired and dated

Nia Vardalos and John Corbett reprise their roles in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.

George Kraychyk

2 out of 4 stars

Title
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Written by
Nia Vardalos
Directed by
Kirk Jones
Starring
Nia Vardalos, John Corbett and Michael Constantine
Genre
Comedy
Classification
PG
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2016

Immigration can pose a particular burden on parents: They exchange their ability to raise their children in their own culture for prosperity or security in another. Perhaps the cultural loss explains why some first-generation North Americans are so notoriously anxious that their children marry within their ethnic group.

That sorrowful tension lies at the root of Nia Vardalos's work, including the 2002 sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding and now its belated sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Yet, the Winnipeg-born writer and actress is so determined to bury any unpleasantness underneath overblown ethnic stereotypes and sentimental story lines that her comedy can feel painfully superficial. Ah yes, the Greeks – crazy but fun. Pass the baklava.

So, 14 years later, Vardalos has reassembled the whole funny gang for another kick at what is already a sadly dented can. If the overbearing parents and looney aunts were passably amusing the first time out, when at least their antics were balanced by a strong romantic storyline about the ugly-duckling Toula (Vardalos) and her forbidden WASP boyfriend, they now seem really tired and dated.

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This sequel, which suffers from rather slack direction by Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine), features fewer memorable lines than the original and less lively comic performances from some of the principals – in particular, Michael Constantine as the now-aging patriarch Gus and Vardalos herself.

The first third or so just feels like a series of comic skits or standup lines wandering about in search of a movie as Vardalos reintroduces all the familiar characters in Toula's smothering Chicago family. It's still headed by the dictatorial Gus, the hyper-patriot who can find the Greek root in any English word and uses Windex for every ailment. Putting up with him is the chief responsibility of Toula's big-hearted mother, Maria (Lainie Kazan), while her domineering Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin, one cast member who never flags) continues to regale the world with tales of her odd growths and swellings. On the other hand, the wizened grandmother Mana-Yiayia (Beth Meisler) never says a word.

The stalwart Ian Miller (a pleasant but underused John Corbett), the ever-tolerant outsider Toula married last time out, remains surprisingly happy to live next door to his in-laws and has done some crucial work on his Greek comprehension. The one new character is Paris, Toula and Ian's teenage daughter, who is busy applying to out-of-state colleges so she can escape all this. (Elena Kampouris does a rather touching version of a deer caught in the headlights.)

There are many plot lines here, but little tension: Maybe Toula has turned into an overprotective parent herself. Maybe her marriage to Ian is getting stale. Maybe Gus can actually prove he is a direct descendant of Alexander the Great, or at least snag Paris a Greek boyfriend. Finally, when it turns out that the priest never signed Gus and Maria's wedding certificate back in the old country, Vardalos has her excuse for another Greek wedding.

From there, the movie trundles along at a more satisfying pace as the script makes various predictable points about holding tight and letting go while Jones moves the cast through a wedding-planning comedy, sitcom style. As Toula and Ian privately re-enact their own nuptials behind a screen at the main event, this whole affair looks less like a wedding feast and more like reheated leftovers.

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