The movie theater for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is pretty packed. We’ve gotten there a full 15 minutes before the start time and just managed to eke out a spot in the front, pushing past spilled M&Ms and oversized bags of popcorn being passed row to row. The room is full of parents with sulky teenagers, kids running through the aisles or groups of old lady best friends on a night out. I’m home with my family for Easter weekend, and we brought my grandma.
I knew I was in for an interesting moviegoing experience when almost everyone in the auditorium clapped along to the chain theater’s catchy jingle. The crowd was uproarious, and at times I wondered if the film had laid a laugh track over its quintessential bits.
The original “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was a universal family classic, so of course they’d produce a sequel to draw in the masses. Although it centers around the overbearing and colorful Greek culture in which the protagonist, Toula (Nia Vardalos, “My Life in Ruins”) attempts to build a life, the original film has appeal for anyone with aunts who are a little too loud, cousins who get a little too drunk and a family that holds onto tradition and loyalty a little too tightly.
The filmmakers have obviously had time to think about what made the first film successful, but the sequel uses these themes to run the movie into the ground. Immediately, about four different storylines begin unfolding, and the jokes that were unexpectedly weird and funny in the first film are stretched into oblivion. Toula’s daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris, “Men, Women, and Children”), is looking at going to college far away and she feels silenced by her overbearing family. The grandparents, Maria (Lainie Kazan, “Pixels”) and Gus (Michael Constantine, “Sirota’s Court”), find out their marriage was unofficial and have to remarry in an elaborate ceremony. Cousin Angelo (Joey Fatone, “Rewrapped”) is apparently gay. The original movie’s couple is having trouble remembering the spark that brought them together in the first place, and at the same time their daughter is finding love in an unexpected Greek suitor. There’s so much going on that I could keep going, and I know I could map a direct line between what moment in the original inspired each of the sequel’s jokes. The quasi-romantic scenes are buried under the rapid-fire pacing of the film, and the sweet sentimentality of the original is lost in the overwrought and John Legend-soundtracked construction of the plot.
All of this somehow doesn’t mean watching it isn’t an enjoyable experience, though. It’s pretty infectious to be in a room of people nudging each other every few minutes and remarking on which member of their own family each line reminds them of. To my right, my grandma has to take her glasses off multiple times to wipe her eyes after laughing so hard. There’s a little old ethnic great-grandma character who, much like my own 106-year-old Nana, keeps popping out of the woodwork with pans of baklava. The hilarious Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin, “SCTV”) keeps sharing way too much about her various moles, rashes and out of this world afflictions. It’s a caricature portrait large enough to hold a detail that hits home for most watching, and so while the jumbled storyline and drawn out gags make it a somewhat unbearable watch, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” at least provides a few good laughs and a somewhat amusing moviegoing experience.