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‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3’: A Shrunken Olive in Need of Ouzo

As its title implies, this is yet another tale of the adventures and misadventures of the Portakalos family, an extended clan of Greek immigrants based in Chicago. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3″ is the third film in the franchise directed by Nia Vardalos, who also wrote the script, which enabled her to star in the production as well, as Toula, the daughter of the family’s patriarch.

This time round, the entire family flies to its ancestral homeland for a reunion with long-lost cousins. Would that Homer had spiked their wine-dark seas with some juicier ouzo, for while the film is competently acted and has many genuinely laughable moments, this latter-day odyssey is a shrunken olive compared to the 2002 hit that kicked off the franchise.

That original production was a critical and commercial success for Vardalos, who saw it gross $368 million against a $5 million budget—America she’s a great country for huddled masses yearning for blockbusters—and earned her an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. In that film, and in the sequel that followed in 2016, the role of Costas “Gus” Portakalos, the family patriarch, was played by Michael Constantine, who died in 2021.

Photo by Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis //Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis – © 2023 Focus Features, LLC.

 Rather than passing the Windex torch onto a new actor, Vardalos chose to retire the character altogether and write her new script around the fact that Gus had also kept a meticulous leather-bound journal of his life pursuing the American dream. The family’s earnest wish to return the journal to Gus’s childhood chums is the switch that sets this odd odyssey in motion, launched by numerous forgettable scenes involving Chicago traffic jams, confrontations with flight attendants, and crowing roosters (once is enough to tell us we’re in the Greek countryside, twice is annoying, and three times calls for the hatchet). Even the scene when Gus’s ashes are strewn on Greek soil seems maudlin and expendable.

The key dramatic element in MBFGW3 boils down to one dilemma—where to find those long-lost chums.  When the clan finally arrives in the old country, they find themselves overrunning Gus’s old ancestral village, now down to six surviving inhabitants, including two rambunctiously funny denizens: its gender-fluid mayor named Victory (Melina Kotselou) and the town’s irascible gorgon, Alexandra (Anthi Andropoulou). It turns out that Alexandra had been one of Gus’s old girlfriends, and we are quickly, if only briefly, introduced to their love child, a strappingly handsome mustachioed hunk named Peter (Alexis Georgoulis).

Photo by Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis //Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis – © 2023 Focus Features, LLC.

If the film had focused on these three characters, it might have veered in a more endurable direction, but their subplot is just one of several undeveloped narratives in this film, like the reluctant romance between Toula’s daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) and her on-again-off-again boyfriend Aristotle (Elias Kacavas).

In the end, the mayor takes a Victory lap when the Portakalos family reunion reinvigorates the village, at least for one frenzied weekend, when Nike is resurrected in the splash of overflowing fountains, with everyone joining in a bacchanalian celebration for another wedding, this time of a bride who is a Syrian immigrant (Stephanie Nur).

At a time when caustic xenophobia—that’s a Greek word—has become commonplace, it is heartening to see a film that crosses boundaries of class, race, and gender, even in one whose scenes often seem like they are outtakes from old Olympic Airlines commercials. But it’s a tragedy that this film lacks what it takes to make it a comedy worth seeing over and over again, like old wedding footage.

Photo by Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis //Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis – © 2023 Focus Features, LLC.

Rating: C+

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Edward Moran
Edward Moran
Edward Moran began his journalistic career many decades ago as a theater and cinema reviewer for Show Business and the New York Theater Review. More recently he contributed film reviews to and Movie Sleuth. His writings have appeared in publications as diverse as the Times Literary Supplement, Publishers Weekly, the Paris Review, and the Massachusetts Review. Moran also edited a memoir by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Christine Choy. He served as literary advisor to her film Hyam Plutzik: American Poet, which was the keynote film in the American Perspectives series at the 2007 Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin.


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