movie review

My Big Fat Greek Mess

The third time is … whatever is the opposite of a charm. Photo: Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis/Focus Features

After it came out in 2002, My Big Fat Greek Wedding became a lot of things: one of the highest grossing indie films in history; the most financially lucrative rom-com of all time; and an Academy Award nominee for its screenplay, written by star Nia Vardalos, who based the love story between the awkward (and Greek) Toula Portokalos (Vardalos) and the dreamy (and non-Greek) Ian Miller (John Corbett) on her autobiographical one-woman play.

Despite all its success, though, this sleeper hit was never a great movie. Elevated by a charming cast, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was mostly a collection of meet-cute clichés, relatable but familiar observations about immigrant families, and way too many jokes about the medicinal properties of Windex. You know who finds Windex comedy — an extremely niche genre — funny? Your grandmother, who, not coincidentally, saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding ten times in the theater.

Because the first entry was so well received, a sequel eventually was released in 2016. And now, seven years later, there is a third Big Fat Greek Wedding. While the first installment focused on the nuptials of Nia and Ian, and the second on a re-wedding for Toula’s parents, Maria (Lainie Kazan) and Gus (Michael Constantine), the third hinges upon a reunion to be held in the village where the now late Gus was raised. (Constantine died in 2021 at age 94, adding some poignancy to the notion that Gus is gone too.)

Intent on honoring a request from her father to pass on his journal to his childhood friends, Toula heads to Greece with Ian; their college-age daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouros); Toula’s brother, Nick (Louis Mandylor); the outspoken aunts Frieda (Maria Vacratsis) and Voula (Andrea Martin); and Aristotle (Elias Kacavas), Paris’s ex who Voula “coincidentally” hires to be her assistant on the trip. All of them are hoping the visit will allow them to reconnect with their roots. Then they arrive and discover that few people live in Gus’s village and pretty much no one is coming to the alleged reunion. Naturally, Toula has no choice but to try to track down her dad’s buddies — a thing she absolutely could have done on the Internet without leaving the comfort of her own home — while everyone else in her family does theoretically amusing things like trimming their nose and ear hair at the breakfast table (Nick) or striking up friendships with local monks (Ian). By the way, if you’re assuming that a wedding will eventually break out during this 91-minute film that somehow feels longer than Oppenheimer, well, I don’t want to spoil things for you. But I will say this much: Yes, it does.

The scenery in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, largely shot in Corfu and Athens, is gorgeous but everything else about the film’s construction is an absolute mess. Vardalos, serving as director as well as writer for the first time, should have a better sense of these characters and their journey than anyone. Yet this third chapter in the Greek Wedding saga feels less like a cohesive movie and more like a bunch of scenes that just happened to be placed side-by-side with no sense of broader themes or flow.

In one maddening sequence after another, people have conversations or experiences that screech to a halt before getting anywhere. As previously noted, Ian befriends a monk who lives in a hut by the sea, but their talks basically consist of a couple of sentences and ultimately turn into nothing more than a plot contrivance. Toula and Ian get some alone time on a mini-excursion, but instead of using those onscreen moments to show us what their marriage looks like in the empty-nester phase, the movie delivers a montage of Toula repeatedly falling off a horse, followed by a not terribly revealing speech about how much she worries about her daughter and her mom. (Kazan appears in a few scenes in which Maria struggles with memory loss.)

Any attempts to create genuine conflict — once again, there is a story line that involves a parent objecting to the marriage of a non-Greek to their Greek child — are resolved so quickly they barely qualify as quandaries. And the new characters are somehow even more thinly sketched than the existing ones, particularly Victory, a distant Portokalos cousin and the self-appointed mayor of the village whose catchphrase is “Number one, the best,” as in “Greece: number one, the best” or “Supermodels: number one, the best.” You know, phrases that real people say all the time!

In keeping with My Big Fat Greek Wedding tradition, if a joke is mildly amusing, it will be repeated until it makes you want to jam your head into the cup holder attached to your stadium seat. (If you think it’s funny when Louis Mandylor shrieks during a cold outdoor shower, imagine how much more hilarious it will be when John Corbett does it again mere minutes later!) But at least there are fewer Windex gags this time around — only two by my count. And as much as I hope this film is the third in a trilogy, I do continue to appreciate the dry-as-butterless-toast line deliveries by the great Andrea Martin, the only person in this movie who genuinely earns some laughs. If the My Big Fat Greek franchise keeps expanding — and it really, really should not — at least one good thing will come out of it: more paychecks for Andrea Martin. Opa!

More Movie Reviews

See All
My Big Fat Greek Mess