The first film was fluffy and forgettable, but it was redeemed by two things: first, its originality—the sense, permeating the film, that it was the writer and producer Nia Vardalos’s quirky and loving and deeply authentic tribute to her own wacky family—and, second, its formulaic adherence to the time-honored traditions of the rom-com. Those two disparate things ended up (also against all odds) complementing each other. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a big hunk of baklava: layered, nutty, shockingly sweet. Not the kind of thing you’d want to have every day, definitely, but totally fine in moderation.
All of that helps to explain why My Big Fat Greek Wedding, despite its box-office success, did not go on to enjoy the afterlife, on cable and elsewhere, that its fellow successful rom-coms—Pretty Woman, Love Actually—did. It also helps to explain why Vardalos tried to make lightning (Greeced lightning?) strike twice, spinning the movie into a TV show, My Big Fat Greek Life. (The show’s life was very, very short.)
It also helps to explain why, some 14 years after the original came out, the team has gotten back together for a feature-film sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding: the bluntly named My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. And here is the case for that film claiming the title, from the laconic clutches of Batman v Superman, of Peak Reboot: It manages to rehash the original, almost entirely, while lacking nearly all the things that made the first film, despite its flaws, compelling.
The new Wedding finds Toula, now a mother of a 17-year-old daughter (who is named Paris), grappling with Paris’s impending departure for college. It also finds Toula grappling with what an empty nest will mean for her marriage to Ian, which has, in general, sacrificed passion to partnership. Toula,too, is grappling with the fact that, despite the independence she won for herself in the first film, she remains in the thrall of her Big Fat Greek Family. (The film is not subtle about this. As Toula narrates: “Families that are close, like mine, we make it through bad economies, and sickness, and war, because we stick together. But some of us just get stuck.”)
The big twist (spoiler, I guess, though it’s revealed in the trailer): The family, through a series of accidents, discovers that the person who married Toula’s parents never signed their marriage certificate. (“I’m a hippie!” Toula’s mother shrieks with glee.) And so: Mother and father, having lived together in their Big Fat Greek House for decades, must finally, fully, get married. The multi-adjectival Wedding in question here thus belongs not to Toula (or, as the film’s promotional posters might suggest, to Paris) … but to Toula’s parents.
This trick, on the one hand, allows the film to recycle many of the gags that made the original so, well, original. Hello again, bottle of medicinal Windex. Hello again, scene of middle-aged women getting hair-curled and face-spackled in a salon. (“Greek don’t creak!” an aunt announces.) Hello again, Toula’s dad’s obsession with proving that all the world’s words derive from ancient Greek. Add to all that the fact that Paris’s prom happens to take place at the exact same time as the wedding (a prom held in the afternoon? just go with it), and you’ve given Wedding 2 the opportunity to benefit from its own circularity: There’s one particularly poignant scene that blends Toula and Ian, Toula’s mother and her father, and Paris and her prom date (who is—surprise!—also Greek) together into a lovely, intergenerational triptych. It’s the circle of life, rendered through romance (and through John Legend).