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It's all Greek to me

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'My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2'

One of the unfortunate side effects of Hollywood's current infatuation with sequels is that it occasionally results in the revisiting of ideas whose sell-by dates have long since passed. Odds are good that if a decade has passed since the last film, perhaps making a new one is a less than stellar idea. Sure, you get the occasional hit last year's excellent 'Creed' came nearly 10 years after 'Rocky Balboa,' for instance but far more often, you get sad cinematic sludge like 'Zoolander 2.'

'My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2' arrives in theaters almost 15 years after the first film. While it easily clears the low, low bar set by the worst examples of too-late sequels, it certainly doesn't rise to anything one might consider lofty heights. It's a sweet film that's not without its charms, but ultimately, there's just not much there.

Toula (Nia Vardalos, 'Helicopter Mom') and Ian (John Corbett, 'The Boy Next Door') have been married for some time now they've even got a teenaged daughter named Paris (Elena Kampouris, 'The Cobbler') who's horribly embarrassed by them. The two of them have fallen into a bit of a marriage rut; they're also dealing with their daughter's desire to go to college somewhere far away. However, despite being a mother herself, Toula is still trapped in the inescapable gravity well that is her family.

Her parents Gus (Michael Constantine, 'Location! Location!') and Maria (Lainie Kazan, 'Pixels') are both omnipresent in her life, relying on her in far too many ways. Her extended family presents its own set of problems her Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin, TV's 'Difficult People') is a constant source of unwanted advice, while meathead cousins like Angelo (Joey Fatone, 'The Opposite Sex') and Nick (Louis Mandylor, 'Hunted') bring their own rough-and-tumble attitudes to bear. Ultimately, her family issues are twofold her relatives are large in number and even larger in their presence.

However, things get complicated when it turns out that Gus and Maria were never actually officially married. As you might imagine, the general stubbornness and stringent traditionalism of the family ensures that shenanigans abound. Relationships are strained as Toula is once again left to try and solve everyone's problems, but it is her own issues that might prove to be the most difficult.

It's actually kind of astonishing that it has taken this long to get a Big Fat Sequel the first film is one of the most successful independent films in history and by some accounts the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time. Unfortunately, 14 years is a long time; Vardalos and the rest of the cast give a game and energetic effort, but it seems that much of the magic is gone. Director Kirk Jones has a knack for grounding quirky relationship dynamics on film, and Vardalos's script certainly has its moments, but too often, the film simply tries too hard.

The characters still have the wonderful weirdness that made them interesting, but the passage of time has eroded their freshness, making them feel a bit too cartoonish. Vardalos does her best to provide an emotional foundation and her chemistry with Corbett is still very much present but the story that surrounds them never manages to take advantage of their talents the way one might hope.

Too often, the supporting cast sinks into caricature. Constantine and Kazan are talented performers, but they lean a bit too heavily into stereotype. Ditto Martin; she has some very funny moments, but even those feel forced. Kampouris is sweet, but flat, failing to deliver the urgency that might elevate her storyline. Fatone's stunt casting might have come off as clever in 2002, but today, it comes off as a bit sad. Really, everyone is game and the sense of ensemble is definitely strong but the meandering nature of the narrative results in a story whose sweetness can't overcome its lack of any real purpose.

'My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2' is the sort of movie that will certainly have some appeal for fans of the first film; the nostalgia factor definitely plays a part. And it has its share of moments both funny and tender. Still, while there's no denying that this is a spirited attempt, it never quite manages to hit its stride. It is an enjoyable enough film on its surface, but it's far too shallow. A little depth would have gone a long way.

[2 out of 5]

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