By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a big fat commercial hit in 2002. And now, a decade-and-a-half later, the warmhearted, ethnic, broad-to-a-fault comedy, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, has given birth to a sequel.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a deja viewing experience if ever there were one.
The feel-good original, written by and starring Nia Vardalos, who based her screenplay on her own one-woman play, was produced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
It offered culture-clash conflict involving a loving, exasperating family; an embrace and celebration of Greek culture, a bit of gentle lampooning of same; and a Cinderella story of sorts.
Viewers flocked to and swore by the modestly budgeted attraction, with the box office returns increasing rather than decreasing as the weeks of release went by.
For My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Vardalos returns as writer and star, Hanks and Wilson are back as producers, and pretty much the entire cast reprise their roles.
We’re once again in the bosom of the Portokalos family in Chicago, back with marrieds Toula and Ian, played by Vardalos and John Corbett.
At this point, their marriage could use a spark. And the rebelliousness of their teenage daughter (Elena Kampouris), who’s about to go off to college and has little time for Greek traditions, doesn’t help.
Nor does a revealed family secret, which is that Toula’s colorful parents, Maria and Gus, played again by Lainie Kazan and Michael Constantine, are not officially married.
That come mean only one audience-pleasing thing: we need another big, fat wedding.
This film does nothing if not give viewers a warm, nostalgic bath.
And because the very funny Andrea Martin as wiseacre Aunt Voula gave moviegoers several water-cooler moments the first time out, she’s back to do it again.
The verdict: if only the whole movie was up to her standards.
British director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine, Nanny McPhee, Everybody’s Fine, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) — not just tolerating but encouraging overacting — orchestrates all the bits and gags, some recycled from the first film, at the top of everybody’s lungs, as if all the dialogue was in caps and the entire audience was huddled in the back of the second balcony.
The makers seem dedicated not only to the overall sweetness of the enterprise, with its depiction of a close-knit and caring, if often overbearing, family. But they are making sure that absolutely nobody misses any of the jokes or the points.
This could explain why the film’s dramatic thrusts work more effectively than the comedic ones – not a happy circumstance in a comedy, to be sure.
In her screenplay, Vardalos — who received an Oscar nomination for her script for the original – lightly explores marriage, parenting, immigration, and family pressure.
But for the most part her mandate is simply to have you spend time with these characters in the hopes that you’ll enjoy their company.
The problem is that the film itself takes on the intrusive personality of the insufferable family under the microscope.
So we’ll marry 2 stars out of 4. The comedy sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, registers like a boisterous family reunion that you’re occasionally grateful you attended, but that far too often finds you wishing you could slip out the kitchen door and exit.