21 years ago, actress and filmmaker Nia Vardalos introduced us to the Portokalos family, a loud, loving, Greek clan that didn’t know the meaning of the word boundary. In 2002, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was smart and funny, with just the right amount of heart and romance, and it dazzled American audiences. Its charming script (also written by Vardalos and based on her one-woman show) was nominated for an Academy Award and quoted frequently by families from all walks of life (including mine).
The first film followed Vardalos’ character, Toula as she came into her own at the age of 30, going to school, taking pride in her appearance, and falling in love with Ian (John Corbett). His non-Greek status created an uproar in her very traditional and devoted orthodox household, providing just the right amount of farce and snappy one-liners.
In 2016, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 was released, following Ian and Toula as they raise their teenage daughter and plan her parents’ wedding after discovering they weren’t legally married due to a fluke. Now Vardalos is bringing the Portokaloses back for a third installment, which she both wrote and directed. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is filled with many of the same gags as the original, much of the same mushy sentimentality, and none of its freshness.
In 2021, actor Michael Constantine, who played Portokalos patriarch Gus, passed away. Vardalos puts his death at the center of the film, writing it into the script and revolving the plot around it. When My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 opens Toula, Ian, their daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris), Aunts Frieda (Maria Vacratsis) and Voula (Andrea Martin), Toula’s brother Nick, and a traveling companion named Aristotle head to Greece for the first time to deliver Gus’s diary to his childhood friends. Instead of the small but lively Greek town they expected, they find an almost abandoned village with six residents and a backed-up irrigation system.
Helping them around town is the village’s eccentric mayor, Victory (Melina Kotselou) who in addition to being nonbinary (which the film tries to capitalize on) is trying to build the population by calling past residents together by holding a reunion. As the group settles in and learns more about Gus’s past, secrets are revealed and who will lead the family is called into question.
Vardalos’s script plays off of her past cinematic ventures, but instead of streamlining that process in terms of plot, the characters overcrowd the story. Jokes from the previous two films are recycled with plenty of vegetarian, crazy aunts, and Greek voodoo references. They feel stale.
In Greece, we are introduced to three characters that we are immediately supposed to feel connected to that Vardalos can’t pull off. For two films, she has built an arsenal of characters that we have grown to love, yet doesn’t cash in on them. Aunts Frieda and Voula aren’t given real storylines beyond meddling in their family’s lives. Lainie Kazan who played Toula’s mother, Maria, in the first two films isn’t given much to do here. Her character has been having memory issues along the lines of dementia or Alzheimer’s and while there could have been a practical reason for the reduction of Kazan’s part, that big personality of the first two was missing here.
Overall, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 didn’t need to be made, but if you liked the last film and like a bit of mush in your comedies, then Vardalos’s efforts could be up your alley. It isn’t the fresh and charming story it once was but most franchises don’t get better with age.
You can catch My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 in theaters. Watch the trailer below.