Now almost fifteen years later comes the sequel that no one asked for. After a disastrous attempt to adapt the film into a television sitcom, as well as a few other very lacklustre films, Nia Vardalos returns to familiar territory and brings the old crew back together for yet another big fat Greek wedding. With a moderately amusing trailer preceding its release, my expectations were suitably low. I was hoping for an equal, but anticipating a dud.... and yet the strangest thing has happened. Vardalos has delivered a film that surpasses the original in several ways. Simply put, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 is wonderful.
The story catches up with Toula and Ian, whose marriage has been neglected amongst the never-ending weight of work, parenthood and their overbearing Greek family. Faced with the heartbreak of losing their daughter to a New York university they attempt to reconnect and rekindle the romance that seems to be lost, while being unwillingly swept up in an overblown family crisis. Her parents discover that their marriage has been unofficial for fifty years and so the entire mob pull together to throw another wedding.
The story sounds insipid... and it is. The plot itself is a loose retread of the first movie and it certainly does lack the unexpected quirk of the original. The audience is now in on the joke and had the makers not played their cards right it could have gone south very quickly. But where this sequel triumphs is with its much stronger emotional anchor. Most of the retrospective gags were poured into the trailer and audiences will be delighted to discover an entire movie full of new material and a stronger dynamic. The jokes which are recycled have been tweaked and recalibrate with endearment. The characters and relationships are wonderfully written and superbly performed. Director Kirk Jones, along with Vardalos (who wrote it), has placed more emphasis on the characters this time around and the slapstick aspects have been toned down. There's also a great opportunity for a third film that they'd be crazy to ignore.
Nia Vardos and John Corbett have a natural chemistry, which is easy to watch, but most surprising of all is the rapport between Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan as Toula's parents. This is very much their film, and all of their previous eccentricities have been finessed for an unexpectedly sincere emotional anchor. They are two consummate performers (and legends of the screen) and their commitment to the characters will melt the hearts of the coldest patrons. I may or may not have teared up (I did).
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 offers more of the same, and then successfully surpasses its predecessor with a clever story, a well written script and a remarkable final act that skilfully brings three storylines into one heartwarming conclusion. Oh and did I mention that it's very damn funny??