Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – like microwave moussaka

Comedies based on stereotypes are ripe for criticism, but Miriam Nemmaoui managed to see beyond this, finding her own family represented in the Portokalos’

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Universal

THREE STARS

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is less a sequel, more a remake of the original 2002 film. Like the original, it’s a mushy rom-com about the Portokalos family organising a wedding. Of course, there were a few plot tweaks to make the trailer seem different. This time, it is Toula’s parents who are getting married, after discovering that their original marriage certificate was missing the priest’s signature. Meanwhile, Toula and Ian are experiencing marital problems, as they struggle to come to terms with their daughter moving away to college.

The film is an easy target for criticism, and its lack of originality is its major flaw. Most rom-coms feature predictable humour, but My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 literally recycles jokes from the original, including Aunt Voula’s hypochondriac oversharing, Gus’s unreliable etymologies, and the use of Windex to cure all ills. Whilst I am a fan of self-reference and Easter Eggs in sequels, watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 was rather like watching comedy on Dave – you knew all the punchlines.

I also sensed the writers were too timid in their exploration with potentially controversial topics. Of course, the film was intended to be a light-hearted comedy, and no one would expect it to start Twitter wars to rival ‘Black Hermione’ and ‘Feminist Star Wars’. Still, in an apparent attempt to modernise its plot, the writers included a feeble nod to feminism. Maria runs from the altar to bemoan her role as cook, cleaner, and nurse to Gus – who stands drunk and laughing throughout this rousing speech. The speech was undermined in no time by Maria caving in and marrying ‘the love of her life’. Another update was the revelation that Cousin Angelo – a minor character with fewer than five lines in the whole script – is gay. This detail causes absolutely no tension, threat or discussion. The family accept him with barely a raised eyebrow, giving the impression that he was thrown in so the film could have a token gay character. The writers could not even bring themselves to make Toula and Ian have a proper argument. Their supposed ‘marital problems’ resolved very quickly into candlelit dinners and spontaneous car sex.

One aspect of the film which I did find amusing was its attitude towards ethnicity and culture. Unsurprisingly, the critics condemned the film’s use of stereotypes, with the Guardian review calling it ‘cancerously patronising’. I hate to be exclusive, but I think that a self-conscious British reviewer is more likely to find the film patronising than a Greek person who ‘gets it’. Although I am not Greek, my father was a first generation immigrant from Morocco, and I relish seeing Mediterranean values explored in a light hearted way. Perhaps jokes about moussaka and baklava would get stale sooner for a Greek, but the comedy found in the large overbearing family and their attitudes to marrying an ‘outsider’ really does resonate with my immigrant family. Because Greek immigrant culture is the film’s USP, the film could have explored the character of Paris (Toula’s teenage daughter) far more. As well as being one of the only new characters in a film begging for something fresh, she could have been used to explore the dynamics of third generation immigrants. I just hope that her undeveloped character is not a sign the writers are planning another film. My Big Fat Daughter’s Greek Wedding? I’m cringing already…

Overall, the film fails to match its predecessor, but it is still worth a watch if you see your own family reflected in the Portokalos household. To steal from the film’s hoard of stereotypes, comparing My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 to its predecessor is like comparing a Tesco microwave moussaka to the real deal – it will satisfy you as much as the original, but will never be as fresh.

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