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My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016) movie poster My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Theatrical Release: March 25, 2016 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Kirk Jones / Writer: Nia Vardalos

Cast: Nia Vardalos (Toula Portokalos-Miller), John Corbett (Ian Miller), Michael Constantine (Kostas "Gus" Portokalos), Lainie Kazan (Maria Portokalos), Andrea Martin (Aunt Voula), Gia Carides (Nikki), Joey Fatone (Angelo), Elena Kampouris (Paris Miller), Alex Wolff (Bennett), Louis Mandylor (Nick Portokalos), Bess Meisler (Mana-Yiayia), Bruce Gray (Rodney Miller), Fiona Reid (Harriet Miller), Ian Gomez (Mike), Jayne Eastwood (Mrs. White), Rob Riggle (Northwestern Rep), Mark Margolis (Panos Portokalos), Rita Wilson (Anna), John Stamos (George)

Buy My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

Like The Passion of the Christ, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one of those lightning in a bottle box office successes that no one could have foreseen and no one could reproduce. Unlike The Passion and most other modern blockbusters, Greek became a hit slowly and based almost entirely on word of mouth. After a month of limited engagements in the spring of 2002, it had grossed under $6 million. A month later, it was up to $12 million. Another month later, $30 million. It wasn't until four months into its run that it cracked the top ten movies of the weekend.
Shortly after that, it expanded to over 1,000 theaters. The movie stayed in the top ten right up until Thanksgiving weekend, never hitting #1 but repeatedly claiming second, fourth, fifth, and sixth places. When all was said and done, this $5 million movie had grossed $241 M domestically and another $127 M overseas. It was the top-grossing independent film of all time (later eclipsed by Passion) and bested in North America only by four movies released the same year: Spider-Man and the second installments of the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars prequels, and Harry Potter franchises.

One word springs to mind amidst that kind of success: "sequel." Instead, the film's star-writer Nia Vardalos swiftly took the concept to network television as "My Big Fat Greek Life", a half-hour sitcom that CBS cancelled after producing and airing just seven episodes. It would appear that the fervor inspired by this ethnic romantic comedy had dissipated quickly. Vardalos' movie career soon followed suit after just one additional vehicle as writer-star (2004's Connie and Carla) underperformed. The more time that passed, the more that Greek looked like some great anomaly: a homegrown Cinderella story that everyone was talking about that in just a few years no one was talking or even thinking about. Vardalos reunited with Greek leading man John Corbett and made her directorial debut on 2009's critically reviled and commercially irrelevant I Hate Valentine's Day. Even co-writing a movie with Tom Hanks (a producer on Greek) that he starred in with Julia Roberts -- 2011's Larry Crowne -- did nothing to revive her career on either side of the camera.

Nonetheless, if you're reading this, then you lived to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 released in 2016. This follow-up, again starring and written by Vardalos, drew poor reviews from critics, but did better than you might expect commercially given its untimely arrival and seemingly unrequested existence, grossing $60 million on a production budget reasonably limited to $18 M.

Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) peek in on their teenage daughter's prom in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2."

Several years after the first film, Toula Portokalos-Miller (Vardalos) remains close with her large, loud Greek-American family, a clan that occupies four Chicago houses in a row and also runs the restaurant Dancing Zorba's. Toula is still happily though not so excitingly married to Anglo teacher turned principal Ian (John Corbett) and, now 17, their daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) is starting to get some pressure from her traditional Windex-loving grandfather Gus (Michael Constantine) to find a Greek boyfriend and get married.

Speaking of marriage, while using a genealogy website to trace him back directly to Alexander the Great, Gus discovers that his marriage license is missing a signature. That means that his 50-year union to Maria (Lainie Kazan) is technically/supposedly null and void. They've got to get married, but Maria isn't making it easy, insisting Gus propose to her.

These old timers will indeed provide the titular wedding this time around, an event that somehow coincides with Paris' seemingly all-day senior prom. On the verge of graduation, Paris has to choose between what her parents want (attending nearby Northwestern University) and what she wants in her heart (New York University). Meanwhile, her parents try to rekindle the spark in their romance, following some advice from Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin).

Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) correct a clerical oversight by putting the "Wedding" in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2."

Typically, the longer you wait to make a sequel, the higher expectations get and the harder it is to live up to the time-cemented reputation of the predecessor. That doesn't seem to be a huge issue here because the first Greek has kind of faded with time
rather than assuming the sacred status of oft-revisited childhood favorites like Finding Nemo and Jurassic Park. In any event, it's tough to claim that this sequel is worth the wait. It's even tougher to claim that Vardalos has recaptured the magic of the original film, even if that seems to be overstating its power.

Greek 2 recycles beats from the original movie, having Toula be frumpy for the first half-hour or so and even virtually recreating a couple of scenes. But the authenticity and sincerity of the original film, which Vardalos adapted from her 1997 one-woman LA stage play, is long gone. The original movie may have been a plenty broad, mainstream-friendly crowdpleaser and carried the backing of one of Hollywood's most beloved movie stars (and his wife), but its success was genuinely homegrown and organic. It was a bona fide independent movie that could have easily struggled to find an audience. Inevitably, this sequel isn't any of those things. It looks and feels like a glossy studio comedy and not one of the funny/smart/raunchy ones we get from Judd Apatow and his alumni.

Greek 2 is not very raunchy; it earns a mild PG-13 for suggestive material, going a tad cruder than its PG-rated predecessor. It is not remotely smart. Most importantly, it is not even slightly funny. You'll sort of remember some of the characters from the first film, all of whom seemingly resurface and most of them wearing the passage of fourteen years on their face. None of them have really grown or changed and the movie doesn't do much to re-establish the boisterous dynamic. Gags like Toula teaching her father how to use the computer would have been stale back in 2002 and the other bits (Greek etymologies of English words, "nut" punches) have already been done in the first film. We do get a trio of brief John Stamos sightings, playing a news anchor who joins the Portokaloses' church with his wife (producer Rita Wilson). Opa!

I'm not going to pretend the first film is a masterpiece. At the same time, I'm not going to pretend that I did not find it enjoyable and diverting, like most of the moviegoing public did. (I still did in revisiting the film for its tenth anniversary in 2012.) Vardalos and director Kirk Jones (assuming the helm from Joel Zwick, who has returned to television, where he's spent most of his career) do not betray or depart from the original movie's themes and elements. They just fail to recreate the same pleasures and to find ways to justify this return to the well.

While the first film was distributed by IFC in theaters and HBO on video, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a product of Universal Pictures, who brought it to stores this week in a DVD and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9 & BD-50)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

There is no way to classify My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 as an independent film and no need to because its Blu-ray feature presentation is every bit as polished as that given to other new studio fare in 2016. Leaping to the more commonplace 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the film boasts sharp, clean picture plus a suitably immersive 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack.

Rita Wilson and John Stamos exhibit the effects of shooting a scene with Andrea Martin in the MBFGW2 gag reel. Joey Fatone, John Corbett, Nia Vardalos, and Louis Mandylor kick off "My Big Fat Greek Dinner."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

On both DVD and Blu-ray, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is accompanied
by three bonus features (which are in HD on the BD).

A gag reel (4:05) preserves the cast's forgotten and fumbled lines, as well as some additional sex life ad libs from Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin). This bleeps profanity.

The nifty and unique "My Big Fat Greek Dinner" (14:34) gathers Vardalos, Corbett, Joey Fatone, and Louis Mandylor for a discussion at the Dancing Zorba's set. They are soon joined by Ian Gomez (Vardalos' real-life husband and a supporting role filler), Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan. Interestingly, Vardalos credits 9/11 for the original film resonating so much with audiences at the time it did.

"Making the Greekquel" shows the cast's chemistry in behind the scenes footage. The menu is adapted from the poster/cover art that is adapted from the original movie's poster design.

Finally, "Making the Greekquel" (11:40) doles out behind-the-scenes footage and some interviews, further emphasizing he universality of Vardalos' family depictions.

The two discs open with ads for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,
American Girl's Lea to the Rescue, Kindergarten Cop 2, Honey 3, and By the Sea. None of these previews is accessible by menu and MBFGW2 does not have any of its own trailers included here.

On each disc, the menu simply recycles the poster-cover art while excerpting some of the Greek-sounding score.

The two plain silver discs share the standard keepcase with your Digital HD insert and a second entitling you to another free digital movie as a gift (that expires September 19th). Appropriately, the obligatory slipcover is not just embossed, but glossy, like the film itself.

In a bit that would have felt dated back in 2002, Toula (Nia Vardalos) teaches her father (Michael Constantine) how to use a computer, starting with the mouse.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though they may have resisted the urge to do a quick cash-in sequel, the makers of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 do not benefit from waiting as long as they did. The widespread appeal of the original film does not resurface in this unremarkable and generally unfunny follow-up.

Universal's combo pack looks and sounds great and adds three worthwhile extras alongside the film. I'm kind of on the fence as to whether the original movie belongs in your collection, but this sequel certainly does not. It's a one-time viewing and a double feature bundle is unlikely given that different studios distribute the two films.

Buy My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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John Corbett: Ramona and Beezus Tombstone | Lainie Kazan: Beaches | Michael Constantine: The Hustler
Gia Carides: Strictly Ballroom | Joey Fatone: Homie Spumoni

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Reviewed June 22, 2016.



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