Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 19, 2016)
Most sequels come within two to three years of the original movie, but some take much longer. Sometimes this ends up with a success, but usually sequels benefit from a “strike while the iron’s hot” approach, so a long delay between movies hurts the next chapter.
Into the latter category falls 2016’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Back in 2002, the original film became a “sleeper” smash – with a microscopic $5 million budget, the movie took in a stunning $368 million worldwide.
No such profits greeted Wedding 2, as it snared much, much less money - $280 million less, to be exact. With a still-low budget of only $18 million, Wedding 2’s $88 million meant it turned a profit, but I can’t help but think it would’ve done much better if it’d come out in 2004 back when people remembered and cared about the franchise.
Or maybe not. A spin-off TV series called My Big Fat Greek Life lasted a mere seven episodes before it got cancelled. Perhaps a cinematic sequel back in 2004 would’ve experienced a similar fate.
All I know is that I don’t expect a Wedding 3 in 2030, as I suspect the tepid financial response to Wedding 2 will end the franchise. Whereas the first film followed the romance and wedding of Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) and Ian Miller (John Corbett), the sequel finds them many years down the road, still married and parents to 17-year-old Paris (Elena Kampouris).
With Paris on the verge of her college experience, Toula and Ian go through marital doldrums, factors exacerbated by financial issues. In addition, it turns out that Toula’s parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) were never legally married, as a technicality renders their decades-ago union invalid.
In the middle of all this drama, what could be a better idea than to stage another wedding? We follow the antics related to the Gus/Maria nuptials along with familial issues connected to Toula, Ian and Paris.
Seriously – with all the potential story lines available to Wedding 2, the best they could come up with was “Toula’s parents never got married”? That’s a plot barely worthy of a bad sitcom – the use of such a tired, cheap gimmick for a major feature film seems lazy at best and insulting at worst.
How unoriginal is the movie’s main story? The Gus/Maria narrative directly steals from “Fred Flintstone Woos Again”, an episode that aired during Season Two of The Flintstones. Wedding 2 is so bereft of ideas that it needs to go back 55 years to rip off cartoon cavemen.
Even if I ignore that, Wedding 2 feels like a retread. The “humor” heavily recycles material from the first movie, and I get the impression the script sat on the shelf for a long time. This doesn’t smell like a screenplay that someone wrote in the last decade – it seems stale and with zero inspiration.
Not that the problems stop there, as Wedding 2 comes packed with cinematic sins. Look, I admit that I didn’t like the original film – I thought it was terrible, to be honest – but even my disdain for the first flick didn’t prepare me for the horrors on display here.
The characters? Still as idiotic and cartoony as ever. We find nothing more than a collection of annoying stereotypes with no real personality.
Toula seems just as needy and irritating as she did 14 years ago, and the moronic screenplay finds silly excuses to evoke her prior personality. Wedding 2 lets the jokes lead the story, so we find scenes like one in which Toula looks “pre-Ian frumpy” for no reason other than to prompt a lame gag.
If you enjoy poor attempts at humor, you’ll love Wedding 2, as it comes packed with sub-moronic “comedy”. Within the first seven minutes, we get two slapstick moments so cheap they’d be rejected from a “Z”-level Disney Channel sitcom. There’s zero inspiration or creativity to be found here.
The cast? Wasted – the ones who have talent, that is. The great Andrea Martin finds her skills flushed down the toilet once again, and the movie forces Rob Riggle to play “straight man”. Why take a dynamic actor like Riggle and severely restrain him? I have no idea.
It’s clear Vardalos didn’t use the last 14 years for acting lessons. She seems just as cartoony and flawed as she did in 2002. Vardalos doesn’t drag down the movie – it comes with too many problems for one actor to sabotage it – but she remains a weak, untalented lead.
At least Wedding 2 manages a near miracle: it almost makes me look back fondly on the prior movie. While the first film was stupid, sappy and borderline unwatchable, the sequel comes with all the same problems and adds a complete lack of originality. At least the 2002 flick tried to make its own statement - Wedding 2 feels like cheap product that exists solely to resurrect the failing career of its creator.