Saturday, March 26, 2016

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (1 Star)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
ChicagoTribune (K. Walsh) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review  

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 [2016] (directed by Kirk Jones, screenplay by Nia Vardolos), while somewhat uneven in its dialogue at the film's beginning, it more than regains its footing by the middle, so that by film's end most Viewers who loved the first My Big Fat Greek Wedding [2002] (also a surprise hit -- the critics of officialdom, fellow Chicagoan Roger Ebert excluded, tended to pan the original as well) will leave the theater happy with the second.   Yes, I'm a fan ... ;-)

How could I not be?  I'm a son of Czech immigrants, with a huge extended family, and I too grew-up believing that most everything, everything "of substance" anyway ;-), was "invented by Czechs" as well. ;-).   Further, I saw the original while serving at a predominantly Puerto Rican/Colombian with a Haitian community mixed-in Parish, St. Catherine of Siena, in Kissimmee, FL -- EVERYBODY got it and just about EVERYBODY LOVED IT (I honestly can't recall ANYBODY who did not).  Why?  The accents may vary from-group-to-group but almost everyone could point to an aunt, uncle or dad who were JUST LIKE the characters in Nia Vardolos' portrayal of her fictionalized Greek family in both the original and in the current film here.

Since then, I've served for 12 years at a Slavic / Hispanic Parish, Annunciata, on Chicago's South East Side and I still use "the baptism scene" in the original to help explain the one of the anointings of those (usually children) about to be baptized in the Rite of Baptism ;-).  When I ask, "How many of you have seen 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' and recall that scene?" people still shake their heads up-and-down and smile in recognition, remembering that scene.  Again, it does not matter if one's Grandparents came from Poland or one's Parents from Durango / San Juan or Michuacan the characters and situations remain very similar to Vardolos'.

So what then is the story in the current film?  Well it takes place some 17 years after the original.  "Greek-American" Toula and "Anglo-American" Ian (played by Nia Vardolos and John Corbett respectively) remain happily married if distracted by their various obligations, still to (largely her) family, to their 17-year old daughter Paris (played _wonderfully_ by Elena Kampouris) and to (largely his) work:

Toula's back working at her parents (played again, and wonderfully by Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan) restaurant "Dancing Zorba" in Chicago's Greek Town, though, family restaurant that it is, she actually spends more time shuttling her increasingly "no longer a spring chicken" father, Gus, from one doctor's appointment to another.

Paris too, spends her "after school afternoons", eyes-rolling, "on garlic toast duty" at "the restaurant" ;-).

Since Ian is now the Principal at (once again, exasperated) Paris's High School -- "Oh dad, (he's ever smiling, she's rolling her eyes again) _please_ don't (!) come up to me to talk to me (so much) at school.  I swear EVERYONE thinks I'm 'a narc'" ;-) -- one gets the sense that neither Toula nor Paris really "needed to work" at the restaurant (for the money).  It's just that it's family, and the parents needed the day-to-day help.  (And what else would one do?  Sit at home while one's aging parents ran that restaurant (that perhaps they too didn't need to run anymore)?  OF COURSE YOU HELP.  That's what FAMILY does).

Anyway, already among those five characters - Toula / Ian, their daughter Paris and Voula's parents - there are countless possibilities for stories.  Throw in the smiling / ever sincere but always (and preposterously) "over sharing" Aunt Toula (played by Andrea Martin) ... everybody has _somebody_ like this in the family ;-) ... smiling sex bomb, still at 40, hairdresser Nikki (played by Gia Ciades) who DOES help keep that family looking good; brother or cousin Nick (played by Louis Mandylor) or Angelo (played by Joey Fatone) struggling if he should come out "officially" as gay (everybody of course knows ... and is okay with it.  Why? In such a loving family, how can one possibly go against one's kin?  Indeed IN MY MINISTRY, I have _not_ known a single Catholic family that has rejected their kid for coming out gay.  Yes, it may be upsetting -- for the first 24 hours (!) -- to the parents, but afterwards, "it's our kid") and finally grandma "Mana-Yiayia" (played by Bess Meisler) "from the Old Country" ;-).  One of the "nosey neighbors" remarks: "Isn't she like 120 by now?" But how could one imagine this family _without her_ ;-)

Much ensues, and obviously much that ensues involves "a wedding", in this case, _validating the nearly 50 year old marriage_ between Maria and Gus, the documents of which, "got screwed-up" back "in the village ..."  ("Oh, how could _that_ have happened?"  asks me, a priest now with nearly 20 years experience of "life in a rectory" ;-) ;-).

It's just wonderful.  The ONLY THING THAT I DIDN'T LIKE was that HOLLYWOOD _chose_ to release this film during our (Catholic) Holy Week (not the Orthodox Holy week which will come later but ours).  But that's NOT the film's fault, THAT'S HOLLYWOOD'S FAULT and while a shame (and will inevitably hurt ticket sales somewhat on its first weekend), and one gets the sense that this film will be around FOR A WHILE.


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