September 18, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Nia Vardalos
Culture Representation: Taking place in Greece and briefly in Chicago, the comedy film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Arab people) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A large Greek American family goes to Greece to spread the ashes of a recently deceased patriarch and to deliver his beloved journal to his old friends, but complications and distractions happen during this chaotic family trip.
Culture Audience: “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star/filmmaker Nia Vardalos and the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” franchise, but people who saw the first movie in the franchise will be appalled or disappointed by how low the quality has sunk for this third film in the series.
The third time is not the charm for the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movie series. Writer/director/star Nia Vardalos should have given “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” the title “My Big Fat Pathetic Excuse for a Movie Sequel.” This dull, unfunny film drags down to embarrassing levels of stale jokes that would be rejected by amateur comedians. This is not going to be the movie that will erase the “one-hit wonder” image that Vardalos has in filmmaking.
When the romantic comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was released in 2002, this low-budget independent film became a surprise blockbuster hit in telling the story of a 30-year-old Greek American named Toula Portokalos (played by Vardalos) who works at her family’s Greek restaurant in Chicago, and is being pressured by her large and opinionated family to get married to a nice man of Greek heritage. However, Toula falls in love with a nice non-Greek man named Ian Miller (played by John Corbett), who is a school teacher. Vardalos, who was born and raised in Canada, got an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which is based on a one-woman play that she did in Los Angeles in 1997. The play was inspired by her own life as a woman of Greek heritage who married a man who does not have Greek heritage.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” (released in 2016), a very unworthy sequel, told the story of spouses Toula and Ian dealing with their 17-year-old daughter/only child Paris (played by Elena Kampouris), who wants to go to a university far away from her parents. Shenanigans happen when the family finds out that Toula’s Greek immigrant parents Konstantinos/Kostas “Gus” Portokalos (played by Michael Constantine) and Maria Portokalos (played by Lainie Kazan) aren’t legally married because of a technicality. You can easily guess who’s having the big wedding in that movie. In “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” it’s not revealed right away who will have the movie’s big wedding, but when it does happen, it’s so hastily thrown into the movie, it looks very fake and rushed. It’s really just sloppy screenwriting
Vardalos wrote the screenplay for all three of these movies (where Toula is the narrator), but “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” is the first time she’s directed a movie in the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” franchise. Her feature-film directorial debut was 2009’s “I Hate Valentine’s Day” (also starring Vardalos and Corbett), which was a cringeworthy flop in every sense of the word. Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and Gary Goetzman are the producers of the first three “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movies, which have had diminishing returns in creativity and profits. In other words, sometimes all you need are some rich friends who will pay for your awful movie and can afford to lose money if the movie rightfully bombs.
You’d think that with a seven-year gap between “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” sequels, that would be enough time for Vardalos to come up with some clever ideas. But no. “My Big Fat Weekend 3” is just a mostly boring hodgepodge of badly edited skits in desperate need of a coherent plot. The movie jumps from one subplot to the next, while stuffing these subplots with cheesy gags and hokey scenarios and never fully developing these subplots.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” also has a weird fixation on making tasteless jokes at the expense of elderly women because of their ages and physical conditions. It’s “insult comedy” that has no wit or even a glimmer of charm, because the jokes are very idiotic, as if they came from the mind of a less-than-smart 12-year-old brat. For example, in “My Big Fat Weekend 3,” Toula’s widowed mother Maria now has early-onset dementia. (Constantine, who played Maria’s husband/Toula’s father, died in 2021.) The movie makes Maria (who’s in the movie for less than 15 minutes) the butt of jokes because Maria has this very traumatic medical disease.
The first two “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movies took place in Chicago. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” takes place mostly in Greece and briefly in Chicago. The movie was filmed on location in Greece, so there are plenty of aesthetically pleasing camera shots of the gorgeous Greek landscape. But this movie isn’t a video travelogue, although many of the most basic travelogues are more exciting than this dreadful dud of a movie.
Toula and her very large family (without Maria, who’s too ill to travel) go to Greece to have a memorial for Toula’s recently deceased father, whose wish was for his treasured personal journal to be delivered to his group of male best friends, whom he knew when he was living in Greece. Toula’s father was cremated, so the urn with his ashes is brought on this trip, with the intention to scatter the ashes in the Greek village where he was raised. Recent college dropout Paris, who left New York University because of too much partying, is on this trip. And so are Toula’s dimwitted brother Nick Portokalos (played by Louis Mandylor) and Maria’s two annoying sisters: talkative and controlling Voula (played by Andrea Martin) and weak-minded and creepy Frieda (played by Maria Vacratsis), who are all unflattering stereotypes of Greek Americans.
This movie sets up sight gags of this large group (at least 20) of Toula’s family members boarding the airplane like a noisy group of squawking chickens. Except for the above-mentioned relatives who are in Toula’s immediate circle, the additional family members are really just glorified extras who don’t have significant lines of dialogue or storylines. And in a very contrived plot development, Paris’ most recent former suitor (a guy she barely knows because she rejected him after only one or two dates) is on the same flight. He is a handsome Greek American named Aristotle (played by Elias Kacavas), who tells a horrified Paris that he was hired to help Voula (the movie never really explains what type of “help” Aristotle agreed to do), only to find out that it’s an obvious setup for Aristotle and Paris to get back together.
Upon arriving at the airport in Greece, things get more ridiculous when a cheerful young stranger (about mid-to-late 20s) whose name is Victory (played by Melina Kotselou) greets this boisterous clan and offers to give them a tour of the village where the family will be having the memorial. Victory claims to be the mayor of this village, which Victory later announces has only six residents. The circumstances under which Victory knew about this family’s airplane flight are vaguely explained, much like many things are inadequately explained in this poorly written movie.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” keeps dropping big hints that Victory is a non-binary person, but the movie won’t really come right out and say the word “non-binary.” It’s as if Vardalos wanted to appeal to political liberals for having an “inclusive” movie, but she also didn’t want to offend political conservatives by having an openly non-binary character in the movie. It’s playing both sides, which comes off as kind of manipulative.
The movie isn’t that inclusive, when it comes to race. Except for a few characters of Arab heritage, everyone who has a speaking role in this movie is white. “My Big Fat Wedding 3” is polluted with overused family comedy clichés of meddling aunts who are obsessed with everyone else’s love lives; pouting young people who want freedom from their parents’ expectations; buffoonish uncles/brothers, who act like clueless clowns; and a central couple who wants to hold the family together and make everyone happy.
Another big family comedy cliché is a grouchy old woman whose main purpose is to make the characters uncomfortable. In the case of “My Big Fat Wedding 3,” this cranky senior citizen is Alexandra (played by Anthi Andreopoulou), who suddenly shows up and keeps interfering in the family’s business. Alexandra says that she is a former girlfriend of Toula’s father, and they dated before he met Maria. Here’s an example of one of the movie’s terrible jokes: Alexandra announces to the group: “I can do facials with Greek yogurt. Enemas too.”
Alexandra has a friendly personal assistant named Qamar (played by Stephanie Nur), who is a Syrian refugee with no family members in Greece. Qamar is dating a good-looking local Greek man named Christos (played by Giannis Vasilottos), but they’re keeping their romance a secret from Christos’ family, because they’re afraid his family won’t accept Qamar for not being Greek. You know where this is all going, of course. Later in the movie, a local Greek man named Peter (played by Alexis Georgoulis), who’s a few years older than Toula, is introduced to Toula and her family. Toula immediately thinks that Peter is attracted to her.
Voula’s two children Nikki (played by Gia Carides) and Angelo (played by Joey Fatone) make tangential return appearances that are awkwardly shoved into “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.” Nikki and Angelo are summoned from the U.S. to go to Greece and are tasked with finding the long-lost friends of Toula’s late father. Nikki, who was in the first two “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movies, was a vital character as Toula’s best friend in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” In “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” she’s a sidelined and cartoonish character. And so is Angelo, who came out as gay in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” but his personal life is not part of the storyline in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.”
As for Toula and Ian, their relationship is portrayed on a very superficial level in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” with no real insight into how they’ve evolved as a couple since “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” Toula and Ian kiss and cuddle each other and show other signs that they are still in love, but it’s like reading a greeting card for someone’s wedding anniversary: The loving words are there, but they’re just showy expressions. On screen in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” the marriage of Ian and Toula doesn’t have much substance and often looks too much like an acting performance. Toula and Ian, whose passion is supposed to be the driving force of this franchise, have become a bland and monotonous couple.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a pile-on of empty-headed dialogue and scenarios. In one scene, Toula has had a little too much alcohol to drink. She says, “I forgot there’s alcohol in alcohol.” Watching “A Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” is like watching human brain cells die from all the stupidity in this time-wasting movie.
In another scene, a goat has accidentally wandered into the house where Toula and her family are staying. This unexpected goat intrusion happens early in the morning, when everyone is still asleep. Voula lets out a big scream when she sees the goat in the living room. She later quips about seeing the goat: “I thought my husband had come back from the dead.”
In yet another scene that’s supposed to be funny but just falls flat, Paris (whose wardrobe suddenly goes from frumpy to flirty in this movie) goes for a swim by herself on a beach, only to discover that she’s at a nudist beach. (There are no naked private parts in this movie.) She decides to go with the flow and take off all her clothes before going in the water for a relaxing swim. And then, Paris is shocked to find out that Voula and Frieda are at the beach too and right there in the water with her. The movie then quickly cuts to another scene.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” is an example of a bad movie that was made because the producers didn’t step in and demand a rewrite of this horrible screenplay. Vardalos’ aimless direction shows that she has learned nothing from the disaster that was “I Hate Valentine’s Day.” What’s most disappointing of all is that Vardalos created some very vibrant and interesting characters in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” but she has turned these characters into shallow props for a lot of jokes and slapstick set-ups that are lazy, worn-out and very misguided.
Focus Features released “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” in U.S. cinemas on September 8, 2023.