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My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 ★★★



Director: Nia Vardalos

Cast: John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Nia Vardalos, Elena Kampouris, Louis Mandylor

Released: 8th September 2023

In 2002, the romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding, based on Nia Vardalos’ one-woman show, became an unexpected sleeper hit and one of the highest-grossing independent films ever. The film quickly led to a franchise that saw a short-lived TV series and a sequel that grossed $90m at the global box office. In 2023, audiences see the return of the Portokalos family after a seven-year absence.

Starring Vardalos, John Corbett, Louis Mandylor, Joey Fatone, and the majority of the franchise’s cast, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 sees Toula (Vardalos) and the Portokalos family swap the hubbub of Chicago for the sun-kissed Mediterranean after the death of patriarch (and Toula’s father) Gus.

Vardalos’s latest film sees her return to the franchise that not only made her a household name but also a career highlight. Resuming her character as Toula Portkalos also sees her profile in the series come full circle – not content with both starring in and writing the previous two instalments, she is sitting in the director’s chair for the threequel, following her 2009 directorial debut I Hate Valentine’s Day on familiar territory. As a result, the extra creative control in both front of and behind the camera enables her to nurture a project that is not only personal but professionally meaningful.

Yet despite a new location – a remote town on a Greek island – being the ideal setting to elevate the franchise’s latest instalment, there is some confusion among the established and new characters. Toula strives to find her father’s friends (as per his final wishes) in a different world while her husband Ian (Corbett) and aunts are enjoying their time in Greece. She is also trying to calm her intrusive nature about her daughter Paris (Ella Kampouris), who is struggling with her own personal issues – not to mention the evident chemistry with new character Aristotle (Elias Kacavas). At the same time, the Portakolas have to contend with the town’s enthusiastic “mayor” Victory (Melina Kotselou) and Alexandria (Anthi Andreopoulou), a cranky yet compassionate woman, as they all prepare for an epic reunion of the village’s original residents and their families. 

The increasingly separate paths of each character drastically affect the respective cast performances, causing most of them to dawdle with no real purpose throughout the film, only to see them clumsily clamour together for the collective finish. There are also occasional moments of euphoria and joy (an enthralling rush to the beach being a notable example) that abruptly end before the audiences can enjoy the resulting endorphins. All this aimlessness among the characters essentially leaves Toula (and Vardalos herself) to carry the necessary sentimental weight on her shoulders – continuing the all-too-familiar trope of the most unlikely person being the voice of reason (in comparison to older sister Athena, their brother and sole man of the family Nick, and their poorly mother Maria).

Toula stepping up to being the family backbone exacerbates the significantly noticeable absence of the late Michael Constantine, who played Gus, as he acted as the constant thorn in her side throughout the first two films. Although Toula has consistently been at the forefront of the franchise, the quips of her old-fashioned father helped drive the narratives of the previous instalments amid moments of chaos, occasional heart and memorable one-liners. As such, the third instalment (dedicated to Constantine) sees the family (and subsequently, the cast) drifting without an anchor, with the only glimmer of hope – the aforementioned reunion – dwindling with each minute of the 92-minute runtime.

However, The Big Fat Greek Wedding films have all iterated the importance of celebration among friends and family – both immediate and distant – and the threequel is a continuation of this theme. The Portakolas’ latest drama sees them (re)discover a home away from home, serving occasional bouts of light comical awkwardness and charm, while Barry Peterson’s picturesque cinematography captures the rustic escapism of Greece. Despite her uneven performance, there is some depth in Vardalos’ screenplay as she raises awareness of the challenges experienced by immigrants and refugees, such as settling into a new country and creating a new and better future for future generations. Aided by certain plot elements, this subtle social commentary pays homage to the Portakalos’ patriarch and enables later generations to reconnect with his roots, lifting the film’s heart amid the comedy. 

Needless to say, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 lacks coherence, and it is not as strong as its predecessors. Nonetheless, there is an undeniably relatable appeal that makes it a heartwarming family adventure.

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