“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was one of the pleasant surprises of 2002. Nia Vardalos’ romantic comedy actually lived up to its genre, with a sweet central relationship and an A-team of character actors livening up the background.
Vardalos hasn’t matched that success since, so it was probably inevitable that she’d go back to the well 14 years later. She and director Kirk Jones have brought back the original’s cast and its comforting familiarity. It’s not a bad idea. Just don’t expect anything more.
Toula (Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) are still together, living in a Chicago neighborhood dominated by the pathologically close-knit Portokalos family. Toula’s parents, Gus and Maria (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan), are right next door, while various siblings, in-laws and cousins crowd the rest of the block.
Instead of pursuing the independent life she dreamed of years ago, Toula is literally in the middle of the chaos, trying to help everyone and fix everything. The always-cool Ian seems above it all, but even he worries about how the years of self-sacrifice are wearing down his wife, especially since their teenage daughter (Elena Kampouris) is threatening to attend college far, far away from her embarrassing clan.
When Gus discovers a mistake on his marriage certificate, the older generation is hit with its own identity crisis. Seeing her parents questioning their choices persuades Toula to take a look at her own. Lessons are learned, decisions are made, relationships are mended, baklava is served.
Vardalos and Corbett are still an adorable couple, with a natural likability that makes even their sillier moments seem relatable. The same can’t always be said for the other cast members, who stay just this side of cartoonish — most of the time.
The jokes are as broad and obvious as ever, and only Kazan and Constantine seem to have a “low” setting on their performances (for about five minutes). As Aunt Voula, Andrea Martin is a genius scene-stealer, mugging as much as anyone but doing it with perfect timing. Overacting is forgivable when it’s this much fun to watch.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” acknowledges its distance from the original film while relying on the same basic humor, from Gus’ obsession with every word’s supposed Greek origins to the antics of Toula’s senile-when-it’s-convenient grandmother (Bess Meisler). The characters have grown a little, but not too much, and you know everyone is going to end up close to where they started.
That’s because Vardalos knows her audience. She may be reheating old material, but that’s because it’s still appealing and enjoyable. Even a slightly stale Greek feast is still pretty tasty.
Read more of freelancer Loey Lockerby’s reviews at suchacritic.com.
‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’
Rated PG-13. Time: 1:34.