[Screen It]


(2016) (Nia Vardalos, John Corbett) (PG-13)

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Romantic Comedy: A woman tries to balance her teenage daughter, her aging parents and her marriage that's plateaued due to her feeling the need to fix everything.
Having gone through her extended family giving her then-boyfriend the once-over and then some due to him not being Greek nearly two decades ago, Toula (NIA VARDALOS) and Ian (JOHN CORBETT) have been happily married ever since, or so it would seem. He's the principal at the high school their 17-year-old daughter Paris (ELENA KAMPOURIS) attends, while Toula volunteers there and helps at the family restaurant run by her parents, Gus (MICHAEL CONSTANTINE) and Maria (LAINIE KAZAN). But due to Toula always feeling the need to fix things and be an ever-present mother in Paris' life, her relationship with Ian has plateaued, something not lost on her Aunt Voula (ANDREA MARTIN) who suggests ways to rekindle the flame.

But Toula is obsessed with Paris and what college she'll attend in the fall (staying close at Northwestern or heading off to NYU), while the discovery that Gus and Maria are not technically married -- due to the priest having forgotten to sign the wedding document fifty years ago -- gives her one more thing to worry about. That's especially true when Gus refuses to propose to Maria in order to get married (again), resulting in them have a falling out.

That prompts the rest of the family to kick into help mode, including from Toula's brother, Nick (LOUIS MANDYLOR); their cousins Nikki (GIA CARIDES) and Angelo (JOEY FANTONE), and even the family matriarch, Mana-Yiayia (BESS MEISLER). When that's resolved and the nuptials are back on, the family cooperates to pull off another big fat Greek wedding, including with Gus' brother from Greece, Panos (MARK MARGOLIS), showing up for the ceremony.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
While they're not as popular as they once were over the past decades, sitcoms still seem to be a favorite with viewers who enjoy watching them on TV. After all, most such shows fall into the escapism realm of entertainment, feature likable and familiar characters, and usually touch upon conditions of the human experience that most everyone can relate to, nearly always with a comedic spin to make it all go down easier.

Most movies don't have the luxury of the same mainly because it's usually years between sequels rather than days, and most of those follow-ups now reside in the world of superhero characters, teens set in dystopian or fantastical worlds and so on.

Even so, some films manage to capture and exude the sitcom aura, and probably the most successful of those was "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Released in 2002 and based on the one-woman stage show created by Nia Vardalos, the romantic comedy about an outsider (John Corbett) being introduced, examined and then ultimately accepted by the in-your-face Greek family of the protagonist (Vardalos) charmed audiences worldwide to the tune of more than $350 million worldwide (nearly $500 million in adjusted figures).

And that was despite a small budget (reportedly $5 million), not featuring a big star, and never being number one at the box office for any given weekend. It earned Vardalos an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and it spawned a TV series on CBS that debuted to 22.9 million viewers.

The fact that it significantly dropped the second and following weeks, and was then canceled after just seven episodes seemed to prove that audiences must have tired of the sitcom-ness of the story, characters, and cast. One would think that would be the end of the story, but undeterred by that development or the fairly long passage of time since the film's debut, we now have the sequel, the imaginatively titled "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2."

Most, if not all of the original cast returns (I say that because I don't really recall much about the original beyond the protagonist's father always "fixing" things with Windex), Vardalos returns behind the word processor, and Kirk Jones ("Waking Ned Divine," "Nanny McPhee") replaces Joel Zwick in the director's chair.

With the mismatched romantic pairing angle out of the way, the story -- that's progressed 18 years from the first film rather than the real world's 14 times around the sun -- settles on Toula (Vardalos) being a helicopter parent to her high school senior daughter (Elena Kampouris) and trying to keep her upcoming college adventures close to the nest. She must also try to fix the slight falling out between her parents (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan) over their wedding 50 years ago technically not being legal due to the priest back then forgetting to sign the wedding papers.

Accordingly, she doesn't have much time to try to fix her stalled marriage (to Corbett's character who's been reduced to second or third fiddle this time around by the storyline), resulting in following advice from her aunt (Andrea Martin) that results in some attempted parked car hanky-panky that's interrupted by the entire family piling out there to see what the commotion is all about.

That's a running gag throughout (the family always arriving en masse) and there are some amusing moments stemming from that and other material. And if you enjoyed the first film (which I did), you'll probably feel the same way about this offering, albeit with one or a few reservations.

Yet, while I found parts of it cute and charming at times, the story this time around doesn't work as well as in the first film (especially in terms of the fish out of water and thrown into the frying pan plot regarding Corbett's character). And much of the material feels a bit worn due to both time passed since the original and that film having already covered such ground more effectively, thus giving this flick the old "been there, seen it before" aura.

With that in mind, it's unlikely audiences will be clamoring to see who will, or more accurately, would have gotten married in "Return of My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding Strikes Back" or "Son of My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (a.k.a. "MBFGW3"). This second installment rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed March 21, 2016 / Posted March 25, 2016

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