No surprise here: “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” revisits the emotive, wacky, ethnically super-proud family introduced to moviegoers in writer-actress Nia Vardolos’ wildly popular 2002 comedy.
Fourteen years later, the novelty is gone, and the jokes clunk big-time.
Director Kirk Jones, whose credits range from the quirkily enjoyable “Waking Ned Devine” to the unimpressive “Everybody’s Fine,” lets Vardalos’ broadly comic screenplay and acting style set the tone in this Chicago-set follow-up, with the original gang returning in what feels like droves.
Vardalos again stars as Toula, the underdog who bucked family conventions and married Ian (John Corbett), a non-Greek vegetarian.
Toula now works at the family restaurant and is the put-upon rock of reliability in a clan prone to mini-crises. Her aging parents, Maria (Lainie Kazan) and Windex-loving Gus, who is convinced he’s a descendant of Alexander the Great, occupy too much of her time. Toula also is devoted to her 17-year-old daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), who feels smothered by her overbearing family.
The wedding is that of Gus and Maria, whose 50-year marriage, due to a ridiculous plot contrivance, has turned out to be invalid. Gus insists that he and Maria marry legally, but Maria will not give her consent until her cantankerous husband proposes properly and romantically.
On another marital front, Toula and Ian, encouraged by scene-stealing Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), try to spice up their stagnant marriage.
Paris, meanwhile, needs a prom date and is considering attending a college far away from her family — a prospect that distresses Toula.
When Vardalos is being real, she is warm and appealing. That happens, for example, when Toula and Paris share a rare moment of connection.
Unfortunately, credibility of any kind almost never occurs in this constantly misfiring big-screen sitcom.
The earlier movie, corny and formulaic as it was, contained a deserving heroine whose happiness we could root for.
Here, no character or scenario is believable enough to allow for emotional investment.
Whenever something meaningful is touched on — Maria hints that her marriage hasn’t been satisfying; a gay cousin’s secret surfaces — the filmmakers quickly abandon that promising moment and assault us with broad, drawn-out, unfunny jokes. Gus gets stuck in the bathtub, and a flock of family members arrives to help.
The cultural stereotypes are problematic.
The cast can’t overcome the sorry material, although Martin, a highlight the first time out, has some notable fun with the spirited Voula.
By the time the wedding sequence arrives, with yet another cliched complication threatening to nix the nuptials, the gags have fatigued us and destroyed all chances for a satisfying payoff.
Advice for future “Greek Wedding” couples: Elope.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
One and a half stars
Starring Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine
Written by Nia Vardalos
Directed by Kirk Jones
Running time 1 hour, 34 minutes