It is Good Friday after all so with the release of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 today (or at least it was when I started writing this. If you followed me on Twitter, which you should BTW, you would have known why this all arrived later than expected), I thought I’d watch the first film for the first time today and review it before later seeing the second film and reviewing that.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Everyone in the Portokalos family worries about Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos). Still unmarried at 30 years old, she works at Dancing Zorba’s, the Greek restaurant owned by her parents, Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan). After taking a job at her aunt’s travel agency, she falls in love with Ian Miller (John Corbett), a teacher who is tall, handsome and definitely not Greek. Toula isn’t sure which will be more upsetting to her father, that Ian is a foreigner or that he’s a vegetarian.
Now this is the one that started it all. We were introduced to Toula Portokalos (Vardalos) and the rest of her cooky Greek family primarily her parents, Gus (Constantine) and Maria (Kazan). They and the rest of Toula’s family are definitely some eccentric people and that’s where the charm of the film comes from.
I thought both Constantine and Kazan really brought these characters to life and were real highlights for me, especially Constantine. Gus was so full of not only pride, but Greek pride, and was a very protective, loving, and caring father. He was definitely a scene-stealer here. What helped his case were the many funny quips and one-liners he had with the best being a bit involving Windex (I wonder how much money they got from them to do that). Maria was fun to watch as well since she was a great, real, and very boisterous mother. They were definitely scene-stealers but were used perfectly, not detracting from the main story which involves Toula and Ian.
I enjoyed watching the evolution of Toula from the beginning to the end, from a lonely, unmarried 30 year old to a happier person after meeting Ian and then marrying him. From the beginning, I found Toula to be very relatable, having to deal with her seemingly overbearing family and almost drowning in Greek culture and tradition. It was easy to get a sense of how much this was holding her back from being more of the person she wanted to be. Things started to change for her, for the better, once she met Ian.
I will say that I didn’t quite believe in their first encounter as it just seemed a little convenient and easy (Well it was going to happen eventually anyway) but it got better for me as the film went on. Although I never believed in Toula and Ian’s chemistry, they were still fun to watch, primarily for Vardalos for reasons I’ve already mentioned. Watching them go through the steps of their relationship from first meeting to marriage, navigating through various hurdles (mostly from Toula’s family), was compelling to watch.
It was just interesting for us to get a glimpse of Greek people, culture, and tradition from mostly Ian’s perspective, someone who isn’t Greek and who is seeing and learning everything for the first time. This was also fun to watch and what helped with this were Constantine and Kazan’s performances as Toula’s parents as well as that of her many family members. While there are too many to talk about here, the film did focus on a few of them (perhaps not enough), but the best happens to be Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin). While Constantine’s Gus stole a lot of scenes, Martin’s Voula was a close second. Voula was a very loud, confident, and opinionated woman which I found fit perfectly.
Overall, this film is just overflowing in charm which just can’t be ignored. It features a smart, well-written, Oscar-nominated script (by Vardalos) full of memorable characters.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Parenting and marriage is becoming tougher and tougher for Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) and her husband Ian (John Corbett). Not only has their relationship lost some of its spark, but they’re also dealing with a rebellious teenage daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), who clashes with Greek traditions. On top of that, Toula must contend with aging parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) and the endless needs of cousins and friends. When a shocking family secret comes to light, the entire Portokalos clan makes plans to come together for an even bigger wedding than before.
So it’s been 14 years since the first film was released which then raises the question was this film even necessary? It probably wasn’t since the first film was good enough and I didn’t really know where it could go next. They tried to continue this with a sitcom one year later called “My Big Fat Greek Life” which failed miserably. What made the first film good and interesting was its commentary on Greek culture explored from the perspective of a non-Greek. This new entry does not bring anything new to the table and as I will discuss later, is not necessarily a bad thing.
The story here is that Toula (Vardalos) and her husband Ian’s (Corbett) relationship is becoming strained and has lost its spark as they must now deal with their teenage daughter Paris (Kampouris) who does not go along with Greek traditions and is considering leaving her hometown and family to go to college. In addition to this, Toula must deal with her parents Gus and Maria (Constantine and Kazan) and the seemingly endless needs of her large family. When a shocking secret is revealed (that her parents aren’t married which isn’t a spoiler since it’s in the trailer), the entire Portokalos family must work together in order to partake in another wedding.
Since the film is called “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2”, there kind of has to be another wedding and the events which led to this one worked for me. I am definitely for a story which focuses more on Gus and Maria since they, in my opinion, were the best part of the previous film. They were good and stole scenes then and they still do that now. Constantine and Kazan were great then and they were just as good if not better here. They had the same type of various quips and one-liners from the first film but the difference was that they had more here and for the most part, were hilarious. They weren’t the only ones who were quippy as Tula’s family members, including Andrea Martin’s Aunt Voula, had the same kind of quirks they had before but just more this time.
Like I said, the first film sort of had a message about culture. This one, I found, did not really have a message and the “Greekness” was a little more subtle here as the film spent most of its time juxtaposing Toula and Ian’s slightly crumbling relationship with the rebuilding of Gus and Maria’s relationship. Both parties had their problems, Toula and Ian had their daughter Paris and Gus and Maria faced their own generational issues with both ending in predictable results. I will say that based on the trailers, I thought the subplot involving Paris was going to take up a lot of the time but it surprisingly didn’t.
Vardalos and Corbett were good here despite me still not believing their relationship as there were still some chemistry issues. What they were good at in the first film was all the cultural maneuvering they did but they didn’t really have to do any of that here. What I liked about Vardalos in the first film remains the case here as I just found her relatability very watchable.
Overall, while the film doesn’t quite have the same charm as the first film, it was just as smart and well-written thanks to another script by Vardalos. However, I still enjoyed it slightly more than the first as the performances were just as good but I found it a lot funnier.