More than a dozen years after the indie film phenom and the far less successful TV series that it spawned, do those big fat Greeks of Nia Vardalos still deliver the laughs and the love when their excesses are exposed to the world at large?
Yeah, a few. But “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is a veritable feast of low-hanging fruit. The laughs are obvious, we see them coming a mile away.
“Telephone, telegraph, tell a Greek!”
But those laughs will connect with any undemanding audience in search of a little — a dolmades serving — of good, clean fun.
Nia Portokalos and hubbie non-Greek hubbie Ian (John Corbett) are still living in Chicago, still trapped on Moussaka Street within reach of each and every generation that Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) brought into this world.
They’re still loud, still gauche, still suffocating and still shoveling spanikopata into every friendly face they see. Nia lost her job as the travel agency profession disappeared. So she’s back to being her parents’ slave at Dancing Zorba’s, the family restaurant, “fixing” every family emergency that pops up.
Ian is principal at their daughter’s high school. But Paris (Elena Kampouris) is a rising senior, looking for new eyeliners to freak out her family, looking for colleges as far away from the Greek Empire as possible.
And Nia? She may look suspiciously younger than she did back in 2002 — Pee Wee Herman in “Pee Wee’s Big Holiday” younger. But “I’m in a rut.”
Nothing like Dad discovering that his marriage to Maria wasn’t official back in Greece to kick her out of that rut. He has to stop searching ancestry websites (Look, an old old man who can’t use a computer!) for his connection to Alexander the Great and propose to the wife of 50 years, the mother of his children, and make this right.
But Pappous (grandpa) Gus is too busy to propose to Yiayia (grandma) Maria. He’s hectoring Paris to “find a nice Greek boy” to “make Greek babies.”
The Greeks are the one culture we seem to give a pass to for this grating, anti-melting pot ethno-centrism, and Vardalos soft-sells this trait, this time out. Paris may get to find her own way in the world, even if there are virtues to dating somebody who “gets” Greek exceptionalism.
Her younger cousins certainly do. They’ve adopted Pappous’s hobby — “Give me a word, ANY word, and I will tell you its Greek roots.”
Vardalos, the lone credited screenwriter, has nothing new to say about her family, the Greek diaspora and what they have to teach us. This material might have found some spring to its step had there been more Greeks and funnier film geeks, off camera, a Judd Apatow comic Darwinism where a lot of minds are thinking up gags and the Best Gag Wins. Here, a lot of weakest gags get on the screen and Vardalos, in particular, strains to make those lines seem like they work.
“Wedding 2” is a lot more like the lame sitcom than the movie that started all this.
But Constantine and Andrea Martin, playing the overbearing Aunt Voula, still steal the show. He’s still got the twinkle of a man who has never given up his Windex as magic bullet for whatever ails you. She’s still the very definition of a Queen Bee, fixing things for the fixer, Nia, and doing it in an accent to die for.
“Remember, you were a GIRLfriend before you were a wife and mother!”
And there are almost enough sweet touches and funny gags reprised — brothers Angelo and Nick, played by Joey Fatone and Louis Mandylor, still scuffle and wrestle — into their 40s — to make this wedding worth crashing. Almost.
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for some suggestive material
Cast: Nia Vardalos, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Michael Constantine, John Corbett, Elena Kampouris
Credits: Directed by Kirk Jones, script by Nia Vardalos. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:34