My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)

KIRK JONES

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

USA/Canada, 2016Gold Circle Films, HBO Films, PlaytoneUniversal Pictures.  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music y .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .

It’s been thirteen years since a charming, independently produced comedy about an ethnic wedding became the most profitable film of all time, and so much has changed: the adorable Portokaloses are now a tight-knit clan who can’t stay out of any of their family members’ business.  Okay, so not much has changed, but they’ve grown older, children have grown up, and former bride (and the film’s writer) is now, with husband , the mother of a teenager.  Their daughter Paris is about to graduate high school and is weighing her choices for the future: go to school in Chicago or leave the nest and study somewhere else, thereby destroying her mothers’ eternal happiness?  Meanwhile, Vardalos’ parents and are constantly bickering and have their relationship put to the test when he looks at their wedding certificate from fifty years ago and realizes that it is not valid (and Kazan’s reaction to this is one of the film’s few genuinely funny moments, but since when is Lainie Kazan not the best moment in anything she ever does).  This means another Greek wedding is in the works, this time for a couple who have been together for fifty years, while aunt keeps taking charge of handling things and Vardalos and Corbett are trying to resurrect the romance in their relationship when not tied up in so many of their responsibilities (especially since she is always trying to fix everyone else’s problems).  The original film was no sterling classic, but its popularity was also not the least bit difficult to understand: despite mawkish scenes of sentimentality between the main couple, there was an overabundance of spontaneous delight in the supporting characters and Vardalos’ own sarcastic reactions to her nutty family that made it more than amusing (and, for anyone who is Greek or the child of immigrant parents, imminently relatable).  In this big, fat disaster, the heart-string pulling has been pumped to the max and the capricious moments are few and very far between: rarely do you see comedy directed so badly that literally every funny line is followed by a series of reaction shots that deaden the pace and make the actors (who are all very talented) seem like hacks.  Vardalos plays the Greeks Be Crazy jokes for far more than they’re worth, and the quirky character traits that felt so natural the first around are now major plot points that are treated with a sobriety that makes you think she’s writing a sequel The Godfather (great-grandmother gets her hair done, slow down the action!).  There’s a constant ambivalence between false characterizations and sharp observations: Vardalos shows her character taking care of bickering, aging parents with a genuine and touching fatigue, but then director Kirk Jones lets Martin’s aunt Voula come off like she’s still performing on SCTV (tough Greek aunts don’t smirk at you when they boss you around, they actually remind you of war generals while also making you feel loved, I can’t explain it).  A terrible waste of an opportunity to bring back a lighthearted feeling in an era when comedies have become too overly constructed.

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