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IIn the years following the runaway success of her 2002 independent film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, her star and screenwriter, Nia Vardalos, spent a lot of time circling the material without really committing to revisiting it at all. movie theater. She reunited with her on-screen husband John Corbett to play a new character in his debut film I Hate Valentine’s Day; Greek culture revisited for the independent romantic comedy My Life in Ruins; and directed a single season of My Big Fat Greek Life, a sitcom sequel to the original film. Technically, the film’s big-screen release outlived its sitcom sequel: the film’s final weekend in theaters, a year after its original release, coincided with the airing of the series’ final episode.

It’s odd that the show was released so quickly, as it’s the three-camera sitcom format that should perfectly match the sensibilities of My Big Fat Greek Wedding; the film was already essentially a long-running sitcom pilot, with no shortage of goofy characters vying for that “and” credit. Then again, most TV comedies are far more intriguing than My Big Fat Greek Wedding – or any of the sequels Vardalos eventually did, including the new My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3. That movies try to evolve in an ambient and uneven setting. The quirky real-life pace is part of their charm. The elements that seem the least sensible – the lack of story beyond “family aging”, the long gaps between sequels that facilitate this aging – are actually their secret strengths.

Unfortunately, they sometimes remain secret for the filmmakers. Like its predecessor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 has a vast river of sadness flowing beneath its wacky surface, and Vardalos (who wrote and directed this episode) doesn’t seem to know how, or if, to tap into it. Rather than following up on the previous film’s mystifying hint that Toula Portokalos (Vardalos) and her non-Greek husband Ian (Corbett) might adopt a baby, Greek Wedding 3 unexpectedly pivots in tune with real life. Michael Constantine, the actor who played Portokalos patriarch Gus, died in 2021, so the sequel picks up the day after that loss, its catch-up credits unconvincingly splitting the difference between family photos and publicity footage. previous movies.

Gus’ dying wish was for Toula to bring his diary, chronicling his life in America, to his old friends back in Greece. So Toula, Ian, their college-aged daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris), Toula’s brother Nick (Louis Mandylor), Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) and Aunt Frieda (Maria Vacratsis) all embark on a vacation to Greece to attend a big family reunion and reuniting with Gus’ old buddies. Turns out the reunion isn’t really a reunion; Victory (Melina Kotselou), Tula’s far-distant cousin, self-elected mayor of a remote Greek island, concocted the event in a desperate attempt to bring people back to this nearly deserted town. Toula persists regardless, wandering around looking for her father’s friends and doing her best not to meddle in her daughter’s business. Meanwhile, Paris deals with the unexpected return of an ex-boyfriend, Nick abuses a personal grooming device, the family meets a long-lost relative, and Ian, as always, is there too.

The family matriarch, Maria (Lainie Kazan), however, is not. She stays home because she’s not really up for the trip, although the film remains cautious about the stage of dementia she has reached. Vardalos obviously wants to write something about the bittersweet phenomenon of the middle ages of seeing longtime heads of families forced by time to abdicate their roles, either suddenly (as with Gus) or gradually (as with Marie). It’s emotionally powerful and, like much of the first film’s immigrant family shtick, deeply relevant. It also seems to make the film feel uncomfortable, as if it fears to torpedo its feel-good reputation by reminding its audience of real grief, causing them to repeatedly and halfheartedly ignore details of Maria’s condition.

It might not be fair to expect a more divisive My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3. But his brief moments of anti-lightness stand out, perhaps because as a director Vardalos lacks the comedic touch required to provide an escapist distraction. the movie goes for. Simple comedic staples like ins and outs, funny edits and sight gags slip through his fingers; the film’s editing constantly feels like it’s a pace or two behind the action. As a performer, Vardalos still does himself a disservice by sharing scenes with Andrea Martin, a true pro who knows how to mine silly lines and shop-worn gags for all they’re worth (even if that value isn’t). still not much). ). Newcomer Kotselou essentially plays a bad Saturday Night Live character, with an overused catchphrase, but at least it gives her something to play beyond “in a Greek family.”

Ultimately, this generic unit is all Greek Wedding 3 has to offer – that, and yet another true Greek wedding, this one farther removed from the central characters than ever before. (Thrilled at the nuptials of two new characters with a combined personality trait!) Vardalos seems continually torn between acknowledging the fragile and fleeting nature of even the warmest and happiest families, and producing an aimless travelogue where a group nice people don’t do much. especially before attending a wedding. Even its opening narration oscillates between elation and melancholy, another startlingly realistic touch that could actually be an accident of sloppy filmmaking. Anyway, the travelogue ends up winning. This is an intergenerational chronicle as fake as his digitally created family photos.