My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is like a box of store-bought chocolate chip cookies: pretty bland and generally subpar, but under the right circumstances, it’ll do. The sequel to the much-beloved 2002 hit revisits Toula Portokalos (played by Nia Vardalos, who also penned the screenplay) and her big fat Greek family a few years down the line. Everyone and everything has gotten old.
The film centers on three generations of Portokaloses, each with its own plotline. Toula’s husband Ian (John Corbett) is looking to rekindle their marriage, dismayed that his wife isn’t giving their relationship the attention it deserves. Ian is undoubtedly the flattest character in the film, with most of his screen time devoted to standing in a corner with his arms crossed. Their daughter, Paris, a senior in high school, is desperate to escape from her cloying relatives with their tired jokes and ceaseless reminders to find a nice, Greek husband. And Maria and Gus, the matriarch and patriarch of the Portokalos clan, are getting older and, in a pretty inexplicable plot twist, getting married. Toula, overworked, under-appreciated, and thoroughly unexciting, is trapped in the middle of it all.
There are a number of reasons to be bothered by My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. The stereotyped, one-note members of the extended Portokalos family, each with his or her own joke to repeat on loop, can only hold your interest for so long. And it’s never a good idea to introduce two new subplots in the last half hour of the film (the estranged brother from the homeland! the gay cousin and his secret significant other!). Moreover, Toula, the keystone of all of the Portokalos sturm and drang is neither likable nor believable enough to tie it all together. The trope of the “fixer”—a middle-aged woman, fashionably frumpy, practically living with her parents and racing around town in her minivan in a desperate attempt to be everywhere at once—is stale. Also, John Corbett really needs to do something about his hair.
Not every movie needs to be original. Familiar plot progressions and well-worn characters have their charms. To that end, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is not without a few redeeming moments. There’s the salon scene where the women of the Portokalos clan gab about sex, cracking new jokes and leading the audience to laugh (and squirm) along with them. Or Paris’s cute and awkward prom date, and the shocking moment she realizes he’s Greek too. These scenes are set apart by their authenticity. They are less painfully self-aware, and they don’t try quite so hard to be Greek or funny or emotional. And that makes them fun to watch.
Overall, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is derivative of a dozen old standbys without executing any of them particularly well. The jokes and personalities fans of the first installment came back for are novel for all of five minutes before they lose what luster they had left. The remaining hour and a half is funny at moments, sweet at others, but, by and large, a cringe-worthy version of something we’ve all seen before.