Director: Kirk Jones
Writer: Nia Vardalos
Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Andrea Martin, Elena Kampouris, Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine, Ian Gomez, John Stamos, Rita Wilson, Joey Fatone, Gia Carides, Louis Mandylor, Bess Meisler, Gerry Mendicino, Alex Wolff.
About a year ago, I made a personal choice that I would stop watching sequels, prequels, and the like because I personally didn’t want to fuel a disturbing trend that was getting on my nerves, the fact that so much of the media I was consuming was unoriginal and unimaginative. Obviously it wasn’t a rule that could not be broken, but since August I have not seen a single film that could be considered a part of a franchise. Until now.
I do have, however, a good reason for this decision. In the early summer of 2002, a couple of months before I would go off to college, a high school friend and I decided to go to see a little independent movie I personally had not even heard of at a movie theater a half hour away from where we lived. The film had a long title and I wasn’t expecting much, or anything given that I knew absolutely nothing about it, and we settled in our seats. I could not have anticipated the experience I would have, an experience I would never have again. Because the theater was small and it catered mostly to art-house and smaller films, every seat was taken, the show was at capacity. And somehow on that day the movies were able to create the kind of convivial and communal experience we have always been promised, but rarely if ever are actually provided. From the opening lines of the film, through every sight gag, and culminating in the lovely finale, the audience was on a ride together, laughing at the same jokes, invested in a story we all felt we had discovered and unearthed together, a small gem that only we knew about. My Big Fat Greek Wedding opened very quietly and to little fanfare, nobody on the cast was really all that notable or known (the most famous cast member had been on a handful of episodes of Sex and the City). And yet something happened, which has not really happened since, and probably never will, due to current trends and mentalities: the film’s audience kept growing. Word of mouth caused the film to eventually reach a level of success that would make this film one of the most profitable movies of all time. I myself not only told everyone about it, but went to see it in theaters multiple times, three to be exact. It is still to this day the only movie I have watched in theaters more than once. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is also the first movie I ever bought on DVD, I still own it and watch it. I had been living in the States for a couple of years at the time and missed Europe terribly; this movie served as somewhat of a catharsis for me and resonated in many unanticipated ways.
And so 14 years later the sequel arrived in theaters and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go watch it. I put together a small group of fellow fans, and we went to watch it. I wasn’t expecting the same magic as the first one, but I was hopeful that it would be funny, charming, and not disappointing. I was cautiously optimistic. I am glad to report that the film works. It isn’t perfect, and at times it’s a bit too derivative (both in genre and in regards to the first film), but overall it’s still funny, charming, and an ode to the culturally weird and out of place. The audience still had a good time, and we did laugh together, but that magic that occurred in that first theater years ago was not quite matched.
The sequel finds Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) as middle aged parents to teenager Paris (newcomer Elena Kampouris). Paris is bratty, easily embarrassed, and mostly an archetypal angsty teenager with problems. Paris is about to go off to college, which scares her parents because the magic in their marriage has lost a bit of its sparkle, and the two are afraid of what a childless home will bring to light in their relationship. But because this is ultimately a comedy and a family-friendly film, their issues never really achieve problematic or scary levels of imminent fatality.
The whole family is back and somewhat inorganically it turns out that Gus and Maria’s marriage was never official, and so the titular wedding makes up for the lack all those years prior. Cue sight gags concerning the wedding cake, over the top montages, Yiayia being crazy and unpredictable, and Aunt Voula’s crazy stories. It’s all very cute albeit a bit forgettable this time around. The one part that had us really in stitches and that carried outside of the theater was the request for the women to hold each other’s necks when taking pictures, something my friends and I have jokingly replicated since going to see the movie a couple of weeks ago.
I will likely not watch the sequel again, it’s not a must have, and DVDs at this point have gone the way of the dodo anyways. I enjoyed watching the film and the friends I went to see it with are some of my closest, and yet the memory will likely not be as indelible as the first one, in spite of the fact that it was one of the last times I would ever see that friend again. Lightning doesn’t ever really strike twice, but in the end it was a valiant effort and a nice walk down memory lane. Fans of the original will still enjoy the ride, even though the sensation from the first one can’t ever be replicated in exactly the same way.