It’s been 32 years since a Greek-Canadian Winnipeg native named Nia Vardalos worked for Second City in Chicago. It’s been 26 years since Vardalos scored in a 99-seat Los Angeles theater with “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” a 45-minute solo stage version of a script he couldn’t sell to the theater. Yet.
Later, Rita Wilson watched the series and told her husband (Tom Hanks) about it, and they got the movie made with HBO financing and their own production company. With a modest budget of $5 million, the 2002 film grossed almost 75 times that worldwide. In terms of money, it’s still the biggest romantic comedy in cinema history. Released in 2016, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” received positive reviews from critics but was successful enough to lead to his second feature film, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” which Vardalos wrote, starred in, and directed. camera. (The first was “I Hate Valentine’s Day.”)
So how’s the new one? I’d like to say this is full of surprises, but we both know that can’t be the case. That’s a little easier to accept than “Greek Wedding 2,” even though it makes the first film seem like a low-key exercise in sentimental and comic neorealism. Material and direction mean one thing; people on the screen are different; something much better.
Premise? Another wedding. Also a family reunion in the Greek island village of the Portokalos clan. This was where the late Gus wanted the family to gather after his passing. (Michael Constantine, who played the seductive, Windex-waving bell-ringer in the first two films, died in 2021.) Toula (Vardalos) is on a mission to find her father’s three oldest friends, the ones in a treasured old photo of the four boys. , smiling, calling.
It’s a plot twist as Toula’s cranky relatives wander around the old island village (population: six) where the mayor (plus Melina Kotselou) hopes to bring the village back to life. This time the wedding is half Greek, half Syrian, which means the traditional village elders must be appeased. With a mother (Lainie Kazan) suffering from dementia at home in Chicago, Toula and her friends feel the weight of time passing. Well, every once in a while. The bread and butter here is, as in “Greek Wedding” history, “I’m cooking!” Put on your eating pants!” Or this comes from the priceless Andrea Martin’s Aunt Voula, who dismisses her niece’s reluctance to discuss her romantic complications with a blatant reminder of the Greek style: Find a way to discuss it “using threats and guilt.”
John Corbett returns as husband Ian, who is clearly not Greek. Like Toula, she’s here largely in the reaction shots, her eyes widening from the sights and sounds everywhere. Of course, the view is beautiful. But the way “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” is staged, filmed and edited, every new scene and every change is somehow undermined by filmmaking choices.
Example: Family newly arrived at Athens airport waiting for their rental car to enter the frame. Punchline: This is a rickety old farmer’s truck. There’s really only one way to handle this part. Let the truck into the frame and hold the camera steady. You don’t need three offensive, intrusive hacks over seven seconds of screen time to make a joke of this magnitude. But that’s what’s happening here. Director Vardalos, the keeper of his half-billion-dollar franchise, mistook restlessness for energy, constantly cutting it off, breaking the rhythms. Who needs punctuation when professionals and newcomers alike operate across the full spectrum of the spectrum, from subtle to shameless?
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” — 2 stars (out of 4)
MPA rating: PG-13 (for suggestive material and some nudity)
Running time: 1:31
How to watch: Premieres in theaters September 7.
Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.