Clichés are not inherently bad. Easy, yes, but they became clichés for a reason. Easy drama keep things moving. Kirk Jones’ My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 pushes this theory to its limit, jamming so much dramatic fodder down the garbage disposal that the pipes clog and backed up, year-old gyros regurgitate into our cinematic sinks.
The movie, coming out 14 years after Nia Vardalos’ surprise hit introduced non-xeno families to an eccentric Greek-American life, has lost the original sense of identity. Not that it’s not Greek. It will proudly wave flags, paint houses and gazebo poles, and place custom license plates front-and-center to remind you that this movie is not only big and fat, but Greek as well. But the charm is non-existent. Cultural pride is all well and good, but surely there’s more to it than reiteration. Showing some of the heritage — outside of a brief background game of backgammon or the backwards gender politics of bullying young women into marriage — would surely endear us to the family. At least it would differentiate them from an accented batch of reality show nightmares concocted in a lab that accidentally mixed Kardashian and Duggar DNA.
Overcompensating for what it lacks in individuality, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (let’s just call it MBFGW2 from now on) gorges itself on plots. Toula and Ian, the couple from the first film’s wedding, have a daughter, Paris, who needs a Greek boyfriend. Check. Toula’s elderly parents discover they haven’t really been married all these years. Check. Toula and Ian have trouble rekindling their romance. Check. Did I mention Paris has to choose between an in-state and out-of-state college? Or that there’s a prom, multiple weddings, a subplot involving Alexander the Great and a (somewhat accepted) gay uncle? Star and writer Vardalos said that becoming a mother informed her writing for this sequel. She must have been watching a lot of daytime television.
The film, while not technically inept, hacks its way along with jokes cribbed from those rote, bland sitcoms that people use as background noise to trim their pet’s toenails. The jokes are either greeting card drivel (teens and moms are so different!) or telegraphed so far ahead that you could get some popcorn before the punchline hits. A granny whose feistiness seems to result from some form of senility misses two tropes and lands somewhere in the middle, not quite rapping, but always the butt of every joke.
Watching MBFGW2 led me to think about why clichés make for bad movies. Is it because these scenes — the newly-madeover teen girl descending the staircase for prom or an older person struggling to use the Internet (scenes which this movie, totally unironically, includes) — don’t work dramatically or comically? That’s not quite it. We get the gist of what they’re trying to convey, but abhor their methods. This is the tasteless nutrient shake of drama. All the necessary ingredients are included to get us from Point A to Point B, but we’ll have intestinal pains throughout the journey. Greek-American culture, and how that culture adapts to changing times, deserves better. MBFGW2 is like going to a Greek restaurant and ordering a sleeve of unsalted saltines.
From AAA TV to Z-movies, Oklahoma City-based critic Jacob Oller (@JacobOller) would like to bring the world together through entertainment, writing about it for publications like The Guardian, the Oklahoma Gazette, and his own blog. He’s a decent impressionist, semi-decent karaoke participant, and terrible dancer, although you’ll have to get a few drinks in him first.