It’s hard not to sound cynical and grumpy when reviewing a movie like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” It is a fourteen-years-in-the-making sequel to one of the biggest grossing romantic comedies of all time, and while it has much of the warmth as the original, it feels warmed over.
Nia Vardalos leads the reunited cast in a story that’s all about mothers and daughters, grandparents and kids, nieces and nephews, brothers, one overbearing aunt and a long lost brother. In other words, it’s all about family.
Vardalos is Toula the bride from the first film, now the overprotective mother to Paris (Elena Kampouris). She’s still married to Ian (John Corbett) and living next door to her parents and brothers. It’s a tight knit group she says is so close it’s occasionally suffocating.
“Close families,” she says, “we make it through things like bad economies because we stick together, but some of us just get stuck.”
Everyone is involved in everyone’s business, so when it comes to light that because of a paperwork error Toula’s parents, Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan), were never officially married, the entire clan pitches in to throw another big fat Greek wedding.
There’s more, including a subplot about Paris leaving for university, the genealogy of Alexander the Greek and Toula and Ian’s own martial issues. It’s a catch-all for every crowd-pleasing clichés about big families. Let’s teach an old guy how to use a computer! Kids leaving home! Wait, there’s an inappropriate aunt! Battle of the sexes! No stereotype goes unturned in a screenplay (once again penned by Vardalos) that feels as bloated as an overstuffed Yemista.
Under all the clutter, however, are the characters. Vardalos doesn’t blaze any new ground here but she does stay true to the characters that made the first film such a hit. Gus is still a sitcom stereotype who thinks the Greeks invented everything, but Constantine brings him to life despite the weight of the clichés. Ditto Andrea Martin as the randy Aunt Voula and Kazan as the boisterous Maria. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is a cartoon, an ethnic exaggeration, but the ensemble embraces it.
There’s not an ounce of cynicism here, and I think audiences might respond to the sweet open heartedness of Vardalos and company, but there isn’t a lot of originality here either.