“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” the sequel to Nia Vardalos’s 2002 smash-hit original, superseded many expectations. Sequels are risky, but Vardalos was obviously up for the challenge.
This time around, main character Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos), now Toula Miller, is forced to let go — her daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) begins to pull away as she prepares for college.
Toula and her husband Ian (John Corbett) find themselves in a rut, failing to connect emotionally and sexually. However, the two have nothing to worry about because Toula’s overbearing and somewhat smothering family can fix almost anything — even a non-legal marriage, as we see in the case of Gus and Maria (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan).
Fourteen years have passed, and meeting the Portokalos-Miller family was worth the wait. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is almost as funny as the original. NY Times critics have noted “ethnic clichés and exhausted jokes.” However, true fans of the first movie will revel in the reappearance of many punchlines that first made them cry in 2002.
Vardalos proves it’s acceptable to make fun of your family and culture without playing into stereotypes. She incorporates the tropes of the opinionated aunt, overbearing parents and distanced child into the movie in relatable ways, encouraging the audience to recall members of their own families. The only real critique worth making about the movie is why it took Vardalos so long to bring her characters back to life.
The hiatus between movies is tied to Vardalos’s own personal experiences — her pregnancy troubles. “It was a sad process for me to become a mom and a long process. I felt so embarrassed that I couldn’t have a biological child,” she told People Magazine. Vardalos and her husband ended up adopting a 3-year-old girl in 2008. It’s fitting that Nia Vardalos waited for inspiration from the real-life experience of motherhood — most of her characters are based on family members and friends.
This familial portrayal particularly succeeds with Gus. Vardalos uses her father’s fetish with Windex as one of the movie’s biggest punchlines, and the joke lands every time. The same can be said of the movie as a whole — it just works.