It took Nia Vardalos 14 years to get brave enough to follow up on her sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
No wonder. The sneaky big popularity and box office success of that one lifted the novice screenwriter and actress into a major spotlight, including an Oscar nomination for her script and a Screen Actors Guild nomination for ensemble work for the movie’s big, bustling cast.
That’s a hard act to follow. And so when Vardalos finally did, she didn’t stray far from that original template. Big family. Greek family. Overbearing Greek family. And she’s again the focus of so much of the pressure bearing down from her parents, aunts, uncles, siblings. Throw in for good measure this time a 17-year-old daughter with the husband with which she tied the knot to make the title of that first effort, and it’s mostly the same comic well, same ethnic jokes, same cast, even.
Fortunately, that’s a pretty good cast, indeed. The just-about-capacity Friday night crowd in the Regal Cinemas big theater in Syracuse mall Shoppingtown appeared happy to be back in the presence of Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan as her parents, and Corbett as her dutiful hubby, and the eccentric assortment of others.
But for the first, oh, third of the movie directed by Kirk Jones, Vardalos’s Toula seemed so put off by her story that everything was a beat slow to me. She’s fed up with working in the family restaurant, and caring for her aging folks, and worrying about daughter Paris’ pending decision of where to attend college — away at NYU or under the family Hawkeyes at Chicago’s Northwestern. In the meantime, the flame has diminished greatly with high school principal hubby.
Enter the twist that allows there to be another wedding. It seems that a half-century ago, a license snafu means that her parents haven’t really been married all these years. This ruffles both of them, bringing the family together, making daughter Paris brave enough to make important decisions, and allow this sequel to hit its stride with some sweet notes.
Grandma, grandchildren and everybody in between gets a featured moment or two. It’s a nice, comfortable movie through the generations, awkward quirks and all.
What’s the best family movie you’ve seen lately, and why? What’s your favorite family movie, and why? What’s your family’s biggest eccentricity?