Richard and “Canada AM” host Beverly Thomson have a look at he weekend’s big releases, the bombastic “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’s” souvlaki slapstick and the terrific tension of thriller “Eye in the Sky.”
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.
Canadian born Nia Vardalos started 2002 as a struggling actress but finished the year with an Oscar nomination. She was the very definition of an overnight sensation. The low budget movie adaptation of her stage show My Big Fat Greek Wedding was the fifth highest grossing movie of the year and became the highest grossing romantic comedy in history. Then came some missteps. A sitcom based on the movie, which one writer dubbed My Big Fat Mistake, was cancelled after just a handful of episodes and an ill conceived (and unfunny) follow-up called Connie and Carla crashed and burned at the box office. And then nothing. For the last four years multi-plexes have been Vardaless zone, but that changes this weekend when her new film, My Life in Ruins, takes her back to where it all began, the Greek Isles.
Vardalos plays Georgia, a neurotic Greek American tour guide who takes groups of, as she says, “obnoxious Americans, miserable married couples and old people” on day trips through Greece. She’s unhappy, unsatisfied and unlikely to improve her love life while trotting through Greece with groups of elderly American day-trippers. That is until she meets Irv Gordon (Richard Dreyfuss) who gives her a lesson in how to have fun and points out that love may be closer than she thinks.
This has been a good year on film for the ancient world. Angels & Demons showed off some of Rome’s most beautiful attractions, and now My Life in Ruins does the same thing for Greece. Good for tourism, maybe not as good for movie goers.
You know there’s trouble when one of the lead character’s names is Poopi Cacas and he has a nephew named Doodi Cacas. I’ll tell you, the character Poopi Cacas isn’t the only thing about this movie that is poopi cacas. A sitcom script that tries in vain to mix comedy with heartwarming doesn’t do anyone any favors, the actors or the audience.
Not once, but twice a character says to Vardalos, “You’re not funny. Stop trying.” If only she had taken that advice. She is likeable, and that gives the movie whatever warmth it has, but her broad comic style is better suited to the stage than the screen. Blown up to feature size her performance is revealed to be made up entirely of rolling eyes and quirky facial expressions. It’s like British pantomime with a Hellenic twist.
No one really survives the film with their dignity intact. Richard Dreyfuss, once the star of classics like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind is firmly entrenched in the “old coot” phase of his career, and one has to wonder if things had worked out for Rachel Dratch on 30 Rock if she would ever even have considered reading this script, let alone sign on to play an unfunny stereotype.
It would be easy (and snarky) to say that My Life in Ruins should have been titled My Career in Ruins, but you never know, this could catch on with the same audience that made My Big Fat Greek Wedding a hit, but if you do go, go for the scenery and not the comedy.
This is a charmingly told tale of Toula, a frumpy Greek woman who meets Ian, the man of her dreams. The only problem is, he’s not Greek, a detail that doesn’t go over well with her tightly knit family. Along the way Toula’s family learns to accept Ian; Ian learns to love the lust for life his new extended family possesses and Toula learns about herself. Based on a one-woman play, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is pretty standard stuff, but told with such wit that it is virtually impossible not to get swept along for the ride. Nia Vardalos as Toula anchors the whole film, while a supporting cast of colourful characters swirl around her. Of particular note are Michael Constantine as her father, (a man so proud of his heritage that he can trace any word back to its origins in Greek… even the word kimono!) and Andrea Martin as crazy Aunt Voula, a loveable but overbearing relative who has an opinion about everything. Toronto residents will also enjoy playing “Spot the Locations” as much of the film was shot on The Danforth in the heart of the city’s Greek village.