I was thinking…
…it is rare for lightning to strike twice in Hollywood. It is even more rare for that repeat lightning to strike for low-budget films. In 1973, George Lucas’ American Graffiti grossed an unprecedented $170 million on a budget of three-quarters of one million dollars–a 17,900% profit. It was, far and away, the greatest profit percentage of any film to that date.
In 1999, The Blair Witch Project surpassed Graffiti by profit percentage, if not in any other positive way.
But when Lucas tried making a sequel to his beloved coming-of-age tale, the result was not received so warmly. Blair Witch 2 met with similarly lowered numbers and acclaim.
For 14 years, screenwriter/actress Nia Vardalos was asked whether or not she was going to attempt to continue the story of her family-plagued Greek bride. So successful and enjoyable was her first story, it seemed a no-brainer to most people that she should at least try to pull off a sequel.
But even the most skilled screenwriters have to fight an uphill battle to satisfy even their most supportive of fans.
In my humble opinion, I would have to say Nia did a far better than average job.
Toula (Vardalos–My Life in Ruins) and her husband, Ian (John Corbett–Sex and the City 2), are still living in their Chicago suburb home next door to her parents, Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan—Iron Man 2, The Wrestler…oh, wait, that’s Mickey Rourke. Ah well, close enough. Seriously, click the link and you’ll see what I mean).
As Toula is slowly turning into her mother, her 17-year-old daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris—The Cobbler, Labor Day), is looking to get as far away from her family as possible. This becomes exceedingly difficult, as Toula continues to volunteer at her daughter’s high school and Ian is Paris’ principal.
When the college fair comes to school, Paris’ worst fears are realized as her entire family shows up to convince her to stay in town and attend Northwestern University.
Gus meanwhile, in an attempt to prove to his physical therapy buddies that he is a direct descendant of Alexander the Great, starts doing his genealogy. What he discovers in his research, however, is that the priest who performed his and Maria’s wedding ceremony never actually signed their wedding certificate.
Upon hearing the news, Maria finds it a perfect opportunity to have the wedding she always wanted but never got and makes Gus woo her all over again.
Toula, caught in the middle, needs to cope with possibly losing her daughter for four years, needs to help bridge the widening gap between her parents and rekindle her romance with her husband.
There are several criteria of sequel failures: unneeded added cast members, sometime blatant cast replacements, retelling of the original story, a lesser grade of comedy, and so on. Greek Wedding 2, fortunately, avoids most of these pitfalls.
Although husband Ian plays a significantly smaller role in this film, the addition of daughter Paris and her younger cousins are a delightful and, admittedly, necessary addition to the cast. This is in stark contrast to most movies and television where the inclusion of children tends to ruin an established story.
The very title of the film would also seem to imply a rehash of the original tale, but having the elderly progenitors of the protagonist being the ones in need of a marriage is not only a twist on the original, it also brings up certain flaws with the old-fashioned and traditional way of how things were done in the ‘old country.’
But therein also lies many of the story’s morals, including the importance of family, the need to let go, that showing weakness to your loved ones can often be an expression of love and–for those of us who are married–never forgetting why you got married in the first place.
A sweet story, Vardalos populates her world with truly lovable people–from the old, Greek patriot and curmudgeon Gus, who would be quick to point out that the word patriot comes from Greece–to the young boys of the family who unquestionably and adorably follow in their grandfather’s footsteps.
Several people complained about Vardalos’ use of what they saw as stereotypes, saying she was portraying all Greeks as backward troglodytes. I disagree with this assessment, as I believe it should be perceived as one woman’s experience with her family–a family, I may add, that is soft-hearted and warm. Furthermore, anyone who has tried to teach their elderly parent how to use a computer will completely understand that scene in the film.
And, to be frank, stereotypes are usually stereotypes for a darn good reason.
Cast as well as the original, certain gems sparkle with supreme clarity. Michael Constantine portrays a man so set in his ways, any shift of the status quo hits him with such force, every crack in his heart is mirrored on his countenance.
Andrea Martin (Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb), who plays Toula’s Aunt Voula, is wonderfully meddling and controlling. She somehow manages to be side-splittingly dictatorial–but in the laughing way, not the actual split open your sides with a knife as a torture method kind of way.
Whether for a date or laugh or just reconnecting with a loved one, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is worth the time because it pulls off the impossible. And no, it has nothing to do with being a good sequel. It’s that it shows us the very people who drive us the most crazy are also the people we love the most.
Ammo Dump rating: 8 out of 10 baklava
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show every Friday afternoon at 4:10 pm. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on @ALphaEXray.. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Run time: 94 minutes (1 hour, 34 minutes)