My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 movie full length review - Thoughtful, Funny, Feel-Good Sequel
One of the features that I enjoyed about the original My Big Fat Greek Wedding was its low-stress plot line.
It was a romantic comedy; you knew how it was going to end anyway. So Nia Vardalos did not bother to write faked-up plot twists to drive her characters apart. The tension, such as it was, was provided by the self-doubts of the main character, her romance with an outsider, and the surmountable obstacles and inevitable adjustments and culture clashes that such a union precipitated. As the main character blossomed from ugly duckling to swan, finding herself along the way, you really grew to care about her successes and to root for her burgeoning love affair with the perfect man, Ian.
The problem with such a Cinderella story is that a wedding marks the end of the road. Events after the wedding are practically irrelevant in the rom com tradition. So how do you write a sequel to a rom com? Many writers have revisited fairy tale romances, after the wedding, to tell bleak tales of doom, gloom, and disillusionment. Into the Woods is a prime example: fairy tale endings segue into misery, betrayal and destruction. Frankly, I find such post-Modern tales of woe to be intellectually lazy and tiresome. The reality of the post-wedding state may be complex but it is not universally unhappy. All weddings do not end in divorce! Nia Vardalos had the happy idea to make her sequel be about how we turn into our own parents as we raise our own children. In my opinion, there is no Hollywood comedy writer better equipped to address this topic than Nia Vardalos! Beneath the comedy shtick and general silliness, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a thoughtful meditation on dealing with our inevitable transformations as we mutate from young lovers to parents to burgeoning empty-nesters, while learning to nurture ourselves and our primary relationships in the midst of overpowering family and outside-world demands. Do we take our partners for granted? Can we change at any age, as the world changes, or are we stuck? Can we come to terms with the choices that we've made in life? How do we do this while raising children, dealing with our aging parents, and the inevitable disappointments and bizarre turns that life has in store for us? The miracle is that Nia Vardalos and her team have managed to address these kinds of topics while making a fast-moving, slapstick, effervescent comedy that keeps an audience constantly laughing. I thought the film was a tremendous achievement, heart-warming and entertaining.
Some critics have dissed this film for being full of shtick and ethnic humor, and for having plot twists that "don't go anywhere." Why? Those were the features of the original film. I EXPECTED a film without woe or major crises, a romp. But I got a lot more. The subject matter was refreshingly adult.
Toula, the romantic lead from the original movie, has now become a working Mom, stuck again supporting her family's restaurant business, dealing with her teen daughter's angst and disdain. Toula's fairy tale makeover from the 1st film has disappeared: poor Toula has no time for the hairdresser's, she's trying to be SuperMom... driving her daughter even crazier. Amusingly, Ian is more perfect than ever, now Principal of his daughter's high school. Regardless, his own daughter wants him to pretend that they don't know one another "because the other kids think I'm a narc!" In addition, Toula's family has become so demanding that Toula and Ian's marriage suffers. The story really gets rolling when Toula's father, Gus, while researching his family tree to prove his direct descent from Alexander the Great, discovers that his own marriage was not legal. Can Gus overcome his male chauvinism long enough to woo his own wife into another Big Fat Greek Wedding? Like her father, Toula, too, takes her spouse for granted as she bounces between the demands of Motherhood and Daughterhood; Toula has become her father. Can these couples re-energize their own marriages? Can Toula and Ian's daughter, Paris, find her own love and/or strike out on her own? Or will they all be suffocated by their Big Greek Family? The unusual feature of this film is the parallelism of the generational story lines, parents and children and grandchildren, all struggling with related issues in their different ways, as they come to terms with themselves as individuals and as parts of the larger, all-devouring, eating-and-breeding Blob, the Portakalos family.
Nia Vardalos worked on the script for four years, and it pays off in her final fascinating and funny film. There are a handful of jokes and bits that die a thousand deaths, but the majority of the movie is hilarious and, overall, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is tremendous fun and a superior sequel.
In a final postscript: the coming-out-as-gay subplot featuring Joey Fatone. Some reviewers have criticized this subplot for going nowhere. As a gay/bisexual man, I must disagree with these reviewers. Joey Fatone's character's gay storyline is the next step in LGBT activism. Finally, a gay character who comes out to his family without major drama! At last! It's inspirational. Has this ever happened in a Hollywood film before? Nia Vardalos and director Kirk Jones must understand the significance, or why bother with the storyline as it stands in the final film? It's very uneventfulness is revolutionary. Sure, it would have been better if there had been more backstory. But I was just grateful to have a gay storyline in a film that was neither the butt of a joke nor a drama-soaked misery. It's about time!