Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis/Focus Features
Blockbuster Beat by Steven Warner Featured Film

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 — Nia Vardalos

September 8, 2023

Romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding was released into a handful of theaters in the spring of 2002 and became a word-of-mouth sleeper, eventually going wide four months later and grossing over $300 million worldwide on a budget of only $5 million, garnering an Academy Award nomination for writer/star Nia Vardalos in the process, who adapted the script from a one-woman stage show based on her own upbringing. A short-lived television series a year later was followed by a sequel in 2016, which made a respectable amount of money, but nothing in comparison to the original. Now here we are, another seven years later and over two decades removed from the original, and viewers have been handed the third film in the series, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, which seems to exist solely because Vardalos needed both a paycheck and a paid vacation to Greece. The first two films were glorified sitcoms that were nonetheless entertaining enough thanks to a sprawling cast of seasoned professionals who knew their way around a hackneyed punchline, their ebullient camaraderie the special sauce that has made the franchise so infectious to audiences.

Part three, by contrast, feels like Vardalos giving the middle finger to the the very thing that brought her stardom in the first place, a mean-spirited attempt at exorcising demons under the guise of “comedy.” The very thing that defined the first two films and made them so inviting — namely, the chemistry of its ensemble cast — is quickly thrown to the wayside, as the core crew are whittled down to a mere six as they venture to Greece for a family reunion after the death of their beloved patriarch, Gus (Michael Constantine). You would think a reunion would imply the inclusion of all of the relatives, but Vardalos doesn’t have time for your petty questioning, not when the ink is drying on that big fat paycheck. The main group here includes daughter Toula (Vardalos), husband/non-Greek Ian (John Corbett), their college-aged daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), brother Nick (Louis Madylor), Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), and another aunt who didn’t even appear in the first one and had roughly two scenes in the second — thank God she made the cut. Mom Maria (Lainie Kazan) can’t go because she is suffering from dementia, while everyone else apparently couldn’t be bothered, save for cousins Angelo (Joey Fatone) and Nikki (Gia Carides), who show up halfway through and are hanging out in an entirely different movie altogether.

This trip is so important to Toula because she promised her father that she would give his three childhood friends the journal he had been writing since he first moved to America 70 years earlier. Take a moment and let that sink in: Vardalos had seven years to come up with a plot for a third film, and that is what she settled on — a dying wish involving delivering a journal to three men her father hadn’t seen or kept in contact with for most of a century. It’s a tough ask of audiences to believe that these three men would possibly give a hoot about Gus’s journal, and that is on top of requiring viewers to find this dying wish sweet rather than nakedly narcissistic. Regardless, Toula and co. arrive in the small Greek village where their father was born and raised and discover that it only has six residents. Big twist: the three sought-after men have apparently moved in the past 70 years — big shocker. Toula attempts to find them, while the remaining characters are given precisely fuck-all to do, just a gaggle of NPCs farting about. At one point Ian befriends a monk, which takes up approximately 45 seconds of screen time. Nick, for his part, dyes his hair and shaves a lot, while Paris keeps making goo-goo eyes at the hunky Aristotle (Elias Kacavas; his crush-worthy status can be confirmed in the third of episode of Euphoria‘s second season). 

Simply put, almost nothing happens in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3. The film is just a torrent of lame jokes interrupted by travelogue shots of Greece, but Vardalos — here taking the director’s helm for the first time in the series — can’t even succeed on that front, the digital imagery flat and uninspired, completely obscuring the natural beauty of the land itself. There are also a few moments where the actors’ heads are chopped off, suggesting that Vardalos doesn’t even understand the basics of framing. The entire production looks and feels like the victim of Covid restrictions, which would certainly explain the miniscule cast and cloistered setting, although that doesn’t forgive a script that feels like it was written before each day’s shoot and based solely on who was available to work when at that given moment. There is indeed another wedding, as the title would suggest, this one involving the offspring of Gus’s illegitimate son(!) and a comely Syrian immigrant/servant(!!). The non-binary mayor of the village of six also solves its refugee crisis by film’s end, a plot point which suggests an entirely different and more playful tenor for the film than whatever it is Vardalos is serving up to unsuspecting audiences. It seems disingenuous to even call My Big Fat Wedding 3 a movie, as if there were nothing more to the form that haphazardly stitching together a collection of stilted scenes to give off the impression of storytelling. The film ultimately only succeeds in highlighting Vardalos’ seemingly gargantuan ego and offers viewers a big fat Greek funeral for the joy the series once possessed.

DIRECTOR: Nia Vardalos;  CAST: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Elena Kampouris;  DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features;  IN THEATERS: September 8;  RUNTIME: 1 hr. 31 min.