By Erica Laidler (A&E Editor).
Back in 1974, The Godfather II rolled into the open arms of its loyal fans, hailing impressive reviews that proclaimed it to be better than the first. Meanwhile, the fourth chapter of the Alvin and the Chipmunk Saga hit theatres on December 18, scoring a dismal 16% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Fans know there is a fine line between satisfying a demand for a certain show or movie and over supplying the same already-been-done material. Unfortunately, most agree that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, sequel to the well-loved movie of the same name, has crossed this subtle line and descended into the bleak fate of the chipmunks.
Director Kirk Jones and writer Nia Vardalos (an Academy Award nominee who stars as Toula) mold the story of a new, bigger, fatter wedding, one that takes place 14 years after the events of the first iconic (2002) film. Toula now lives with her American husband, Ian (John Corbett), and her daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris).
Junior Komal Prakash says the creation of a sequel was essentially unnecessary. “It’s been so long,” she said. “It’s kind of ridiculous since it’s been so long. So I’m not really interested in seeing it.”
“What once bubbled up from a sincere love of Greek family has now congealed into the all-too-familiar Hollywood tale of milking a cash cow until cries for mercy,” said Peter Travers in his Rolling Stone review.
But some, like Sharon High School Junior Noah Parets, say they enjoyed the movie despite its inability to live up to the first film – which was an obvious “classic”.
According to Michael Smith of Tulsa World, the sequel is fun but lacks depth, and watching it is “like blowing dandelion seeds: a brief moment of joy that passes quickly, meaninglessly disappearing into thin air, and you forget it ever happened.”
The movie, which hit theatres on March 25, revolves also around Toula’s still wild, still overbearing, and still utterly Greek extended family, whose simultaneous loyalty to its culture and inability to comprehend the odd workings of American society lead to many of the same conflicts that ran rampant in the first film.
There remains the same utilization of profound themes hidden behind veneers of humor – the rocky path to assimilation for modern-day immigrants, for example, is repeatedly explored.
“Some people change…Greeks don’t,” proclaims the trailer. Yet the second film suggests not that assimilation is impossible, just that it takes several generations. Parets said Toula’s daughter is more “Americanized, definitely much more so than Toula.”
And the pressure Greek women feel to settle down, cook, and have “Greek babies” rather than pursue career options is considered again, though not in a particularly revised way from the first film.
“Both Toula and Paris are subjected to the same, lame “marry-or-you’ll-turn-ugly” gag that the entire first film was built upon,” said Hillary A. White of the Entertainment Reviews.
Both the themes of assimilation and gender roles were some of the most important, successful aspects of the first film. Yet in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, the characters are not dynamic and neither are the ideas, which at times verge simply on stale.
Sharon High School Junior Noah Parets said directors and producers “took the Greek thing to the max” in the creation of the film, and they did.
While viewers might notice the characters merging into a shallow bunch of indistinguishable, insignificant family members – as The New York Time’s Jeannette Catsoulis puts it, a “gesticulating blob of upraised shoulders and upturned palms” – they can’t rightly complain the film isn’t ‘Greek’ enough.
From references to spanakopita, the Greek Orthodox Church, stereotypically crude Greek humor, and strong Greek family ties, culture is omnipresent in My Big Fat Greek 2 just as it was in the first film.
But while Junior Komal Prakash acknowledges both films might have ability to teach about Greek culture, she maintains that they are mostly for entertainment purposes. The first film gave a little bit of insight into Greek culture, she said, “in that it shows how the [Greek] family tends to be very welcoming.”
“But it’s obviously blown up to be funny.”
And the purpose of obvious parody on Greek culture as a tool to educate the public is all the more unconvincing in the second film – anyone who has already seen the first movie is not introduced to a single new Greek concept.
But maybe the fact that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is so unchanged from the first is what makes it so sweet, comforting, and even accurate. Greek culture has not survived for centuries because its people have ditched it for the next one swept their way.
It has survived because its people have loved it unconditionally, remained loyal to their people, and proved always willing to scream from the rooftops, “I am proud to be Greek!”