PLOT A Greek woman who married against her family’s wishes now has a willful daughter of her own.
CAST Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Elena Kampouris
RATED PG-13 (sexuality and racy humor)
BOTTOM LINE Old jokes and little plot, but the charming original cast almost compensates.
Fourteen years ago, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” became the female “Rocky” of its day. Its star, Nia Vardalos, turned an autobiographical stage show into a sleeper hit film about a Greek wallflower who falls for a forbidden outsider. A rom-com with no name-brand stars, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” charmed audiences with its gentle ethnic jokes, underdog story and endearing cast of kooky characters. On a $5 million budget, it earned $368 million.
Vardalos returns as Toula, still married to John Corbett as Ian, in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” Also here is virtually the entire original cast, even Bess Meisler as ancient Mana-Yiayia, still dressed in villager black. Vardalos once again wrote the screenplay. What’s missing is the organic, real-life warmth that made the first film so magical.
By contrast, this sequel feels born in a studio conference room. It’s an uneven combination of two unrelated and paper-thin narratives. In one, Toula is experiencing déjà vu: Her daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), a sullen high schooler mortified by her loud Greek relatives, has applied for colleges far, far from home. Meanwhile, Toula’s cantankerous parents, Kostas (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan), have discovered their old-world marriage certificate is incomplete — they’re not technically married.
That’s where the second big fat Greek wedding will come from, but until then we’ll have to sit through a great deal of padding. Maria wants Kostas to re-propose, but he refuses. Paris waits for acceptance letters. Kostas’ estranged brother (Mark Margolis) flies in for a reunion. Someone comes out as gay, because that’s how these movies go. Old jokes get recycled — Kostas still has an odd obsession with Windex — rather than freshened up.
None of it strikes a genuine chord, partly because the newer characters are so hastily written and partly because the directing, by Kirk Jones (“What to Expect When You’re Expecting”), feels perfunctory. Still, the vivacious cast — especially Andrea Martin as bawdy Aunt Voula — can occasionally liven up the material.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” may not be a wholly cynical exercise, but Vardalos’ heart clearly isn’t in it.