MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (2016)

March 24, 2016

big fat2 Greetings again from the darkness. It’s been 14 years since the Portokolas family took over movie theatres, the box office, and casual conversation in most every social setting. I’ll readily admit that, despite my leanings toward more serious film fare, I was a huge fan of the 2002 surprise mega-hit. The movie was refreshing and observational, with commentary on proud cultures and helicopter parenting – but mostly it was funny. Bundt cakes and Windex will forever be a part of movie lore … as this sequel reminds us.

Given the Hollywood proliferation of sequels, re-makes and re-imaginings, the only thing surprising here is that it took so long for Wedding number 2. And yes, that is the only surprise. Nia Vardalos obviously wrote this script as a love letter to the fans of the original. It fits like a warm blanket – comfortable and familiar. The setting, the characters and the jokes … all familiar … yet still pleasant and easy to watch.

With that title, we know we are in for another Greek wedding. However, Toula (Ms. Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) have one daughter – 17 year old Paris (Elena Kampouris), and her big decision is whether to stay local for college or leave Chicago and the family for NYU. Since the wedding is not for the daughter, it falls to Toula’s parents. It seems Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) have been living in sin for 50 years – all because the priest never signed the marriage certificate. Let the histrionics begin!

Director Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee, Waking Ned Devine) stays true to the spirit of the Vardalos script and legacy, and much of the movie plays like one big inside joke for fans of the original. Windex make an appearance in each of the three acts, and we get a shot of decorated Bundt cakes, some exaggerated make-up and hair styles, and a steady stream of family members who just can’t help their propensity for being loud and up in everyone’s business.

Most of the original cast returns. Andrea Martin is back as scene-stealer Aunt Voula, and Mama-Yiayia (Bess Meisler) gets her usual “pop-ups” plus a touching moment in the wedding spotlight. New faces include Alex Wolff (brother of Nat, son of Polly Draper) as Paris’ prom date; and Rita Wilson (also a producer with her husband Tom Hanks) and John Stamos have a couple of scenes as a Greek couple; while Mark Margolis (“Breaking Bad”, “Better Call Saul”) appears as Gus’ brother from the homeland.

Nostalgia and familiarity are the keys here, and there is no reason to be overly-critical of a movie that is so pleasant and light-hearted. “There you go!”

watch the trailer:

 


THE LOOKALIKE (2014)

November 2, 2014

lookalike Greetings again from the darkness. Familiar faces are everywhere in this crime thriller from husband and wife filmmakers Richard Gray (director) and Michele Davis-Gray (writer). The familiar faces make the most of a story with no shortage of characters or sub-plots, though sometimes the movie tries a bit too hard to be gritty and hard-edged.

Jerry O’Connell plays Joe Mulligan, a former basketball star turned club owner and drug dealer. Joe is dealing drugs to pay off his dead dad’s debt to loan shark Luis Guzman, all while keeping his dream of hosting his own cooking show on the Food Network. See, Joe is mostly a nice guy caught up in an ugly world. This world includes his brother Holt (Justin Long) who may not be the straight-laced guy he first appears as, his drug boss Bobby (John Corbett), Bobby’s henchman Frank (Steven Bauer), and William Spinks (John Savage) as the powerful guy who demands a set-up in exchange for a big pay day.

The set-up is on track until one of the freakiest fatal accidents strikes Sadie Hill, the object of Spinks’ attraction. Desperate for the money, the bumbling drug dummies, decide to find a substitute. Enter Joe’s customer and Holt’s squeeze as the titular lookalike. Gillian Jacobs (TV’s “Community”) as Lacey does a nice job making us believe she is just desperate enough to agree to the job. Yes, desperation is a trait shared by most every character in the movie … even the detective played by the always reliable Gena Gershon. The final character of note is Mila (Scottie Thompson), who plays the “girl walks into a bar” role and proceeds to muddy the water in this big plan.  Both Ms. Jacobs and Ms. Thompson flash the ability necessary for more ambitious projects.

Slow-motion and cheesy music negatively impact some of the dramatic moments and the sex scenes … especially an otherwise effective cross-cut between O’Connell and Long as they seduce Thompson and Jacobs, respectively. Still, for a rainy day mindless crime thriller that won’t require much investment, this one is satisfactory and offers a chance to catch up with some of our most familiar character actors.

**NOTE: If you don’t recognize Jerry O’Connell’s name, you might remember him as a child actor … he played Vern in Stand By Me (1986)

watch the trailer: