Director – Nia Vardalos – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 91m
The Greek-American family from Chicago visit their late patriarch’s small village in Greece to honour his final wish – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 8th
Once again written by and starring Vardalos as Toula, the daughter of the rumbunctious, Greek-American Portokalos family from Chicago, this third outing for the franchise is predictably another celebration of all things Greek, or, at least, Greek-American. The previous two films owed much to the character of Toula’s father Gus (Michael Constantine), the family patriarch insistent on all family members (a) getting married as soon as they come of age and (b) marrying Greek-Americans.
In the first film My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Joel Zwick, 2002), Toula had to bring him round to the idea of her marrying the non-Greek Ian (John Corbett). In the second film My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (Kirk Jones, 2016), Toula had become an interfering mother to teenage daughter Paris (Elena Campouris) while Gus and his wife Maria (Lainie Kazan) have another wedding celebration following the discovery that their marriage of 50 years was technically invalid.
The third instalment was to have been about Gus and the family visiting Greece to rediscover his roots. Sadly, during the 2020 pandemic, both Vadalos’ own father and actor Constantine passed away. Dealing with her personal grief (and the sense of loss that everyone felt in the pandemic, so brilliantly chronicled in indie Brit documentary Beyond The Mask, Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds, 2021) through the writing process, she came up with a screenplay in which the late family patriarch is conspicuous by his absence, as the family honour his last wish by attending a reunion at the village in the Greek mountains where he was born. In the film itself, any dwelling on grief is largely sidelined in favour of the expected, ensemble family dynamic mayhem, the chaos continuing as the family board a plane to Athens where the party includes Aristotle (Elias Kacavas), the love interest from college with whom Paris has recently fallen out.
Flying in to the airport, the ensemble is met by Victory (Melina Kotselou), the enthusiastic mayor of the village who armed with an official ‘mayoral parking space’ traffic cone gets them tp the village in a small, well-used, farming lorry. On arrival, however, the family are somewhat shocked to discover the village largely deserted, having a current population of only six. In addition to the mayor, these include the hostile local matriarch, a mysterious, prowling stranger, and a Syrian refugee woman Qamar (Stephanie Nur) that a local boy wants to marry against the wishes of his father should the latter find out.
Directing for the first time, Vardalos – who effectively originated the franchise with her well received, 1997 one-woman show – knows the family and its multiple characters intimately and is an obvious choice to direct. In addition to the over the top family dynamics, she also delivers lashings of Greek culture, from the opening montage of food through the sun-drenched and incredibly beautiful travelogue locations through to the indomitable Greek spirit and sense of national pride, which latter element is probably, more than anything, what the film is ultimately about.
I remember the original film being much funnier – this one is thin on laughs – however the characters are memorable, its heart is in the right place and the local scenery is fabulous. Whether anyone in the middle of a heatwave the UK is going to want to see a film about equally hot (or hotter) Greece is anyone’s guess – air conditioning, anyone? – yet, if that’s what you want, the film delivers. It’s no masterpiece, but washes over you in an agreeably pleasant way.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, September 8th.