Last summer, Nia Vardalos took a lot of people to the island of Corfu, snapshots and video from which have been haphazardly assembled into 90 minutes you can pay to see called “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.” It’s no vacation.
One needn’t begrudge star-screenwriter-director Vardalos for celebrating her sleeper megahit (2002’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) by pushing the party past its enjoy-by date. Who can blame her for wanting to finally ship the overworked ethnic-family jokes, tired cultural references and forced zaniness from the Chicago suburbs to the picturesque homeland of the title? Especially after the “Mamma Mia!” movies have already taken advantage of that Mediterranean beauty — and those characters aren’t even Greek! And ABBA is Swedish! (And the “Mamma Mia!” sequel shot in Croatia, not Greece!)
Still, those "Mamma Mia!" bicker-and-swoon musicals are carefully crafted confections next to the soggy baklava that is “Greek Wedding 3,” in which the honey from the original film’s mixture has fermented, and the dough no longer adheres to any recognizable shape. The glossy, inert staleness of the first sequel in 2016 was already proof that the judgmental and clingy Portokalos clan were only sitcom cliches to begin with. This one, though, is a shrine to laziness.
The first noticeable absence is the late, great Michael Constantine, his character represented by a deceased immigrant patriarch’s final wish: that daughter Toula (Vardalos) take his journal back to his home village and share it with three childhood friends. Tagging along for the ride are Toula’s husband Ian (the vintage blandness of John Corbett), college-age daughter Paris (returning Elena Kampouris), brash brother Nick (Louis Mandylor once more), along with Nick and Toula’s aunts Frieda (Maria Vacratsis) and Voula (Andrea Martin again, thank God). Cousins Nikki (Gia Carides) and Angelo (Joey Fatone) show up later, no different than before.
The irrepressible Lainie Kazan is back, too, as Toula’s widowed mom, Maria, but not for the trip: The character, relegated to two homebound scenes, has been given memory loss. Her descendants lament it. You may wish for it.
The gang reaches their island destination — attractively photographed by Barry Peterson — in a rickety truck driven by enthusiastic village mayor Victory (Melina Kotselou), who regrettably symbolizes Vardalos’ approach to characters: Tag them (nonbinary), hint at a personality (eccentric), then give the actor nothing else to play besides some lame running gag about how they take selfies. Even more baffling, Gus’ childhood buds — i.e., the whole reason for the trip — are relegated to non-speaking extras at the end, while the titular nuptials this time are for a handsome young Greek local and a beautiful Syrian refugee who have a total of a dozen lines between them. There’s also nothing more to be said about Toula’s and Ian’s marriage, it seems, while Paris is saddled with a potential beau (Elias Kacavas) as dull as her dad. It’s a rom-com both com-less and rom-less.
You’d think the Portokaloses running into papa’s old squeeze (who’s now — what else? — cantankerous) and meeting a never-known half-brother of Toula’s (Alexis Georgoulis) would make for a rich vein of knotty intra-family humor. Instead, it’s cultural window dressing while Vardalos crams in one more dull joke about Nick’s manscaping, Greek voodoo or Voula’s sauciness.
As a filmmaker, Vardalos doesn’t sculpt or edit. She interrupts and repeats. And if the framing cuts off an actor’s head, or people change their minds with no reasoning, or a character needs to be here when they were just there, maybe you won’t notice as long as there’s a sheep or a scenic backdrop or a Greek meal in the works. Family cohesion is supposedly this installment’s big message. But what it says about basic movie cohesion — and sequel tourism’s routine carelessness — is infinitely louder.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.