More than twenty years after the first film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is back on our screen with a third instalment of the series. Once again, fans of the film series will be catapulted back into the unique world of My Big Fat Greek Wedding with its amusing characters and entertaining humour that have defined the series for the past twenty-one years. It is also the first film of the series to be directed by Nia Vardalos who wrote the previous two films of the franchise and starred as the main character. This definitely feels like the perfect choice for the franchise as Vardalos’s personal experience largely informed the film and its characters.
In My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, the audience is transported on another adventure full of love, secrets, family dynamics and a brand-new setting. After losing her father Gus (Michael Constantine), Toula (Nia Vardalos) flies across the ocean to visit her father’s hometown for a reunion organised by the town mayor Victory (Melina Kotselou). Of course, it would not be a film about the Portokalos family without some of the family members we have come to know and love who accompany her on this journey, such as her husband Ian (John Corbett), her daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris), her brother (Louis Mandylor), Theia Voula (Andrea Martin), and Theia Freida (Maria Vacratsis).
The conversations around refugees and immigrants in the film are particularly interesting. While the previous movies do feature the theme of immigration as their very foundation, it is not something the franchise has touched in depth until now, when these themes become integral to the very plot of the movie. Not only it is a new element in the way My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 approaches it, but it also brings this series of films into the present world with its mentions of Ukrainian refugees and immigrants arriving in the country, thus tapping into the very real political situation of today’s Greece.
Another novelty is the setting: as mentioned, we are not in Seattle anymore. Instead, the family is travelling to Greece. Not only is this a great way to keep things fresh for the audience, but it is also an excellent way of showcasing Greece and Greek culture, something that has been integral to the franchise since its very beginning. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 also portrays a different side of Greece: while the classical portrayal of the sea and Athens is present, in this film the viewers get to see a small village in the mountains that is not often portrayed in mainstream media.
I also appreciated how the film integrated Greek culture with filming on location and the use of Greek music throughout the movie. Similarly, it does feel like My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 was somehow always meant to eventually go to Greece in order to truly embrace the cultural heritage of the characters. However, precisely because it is set in Greece, I would have liked to hear more Greek: most of the Portokalos family members are established to be fluent in Greek and yet they interact with the locals in English rather than using their mother tongue, which seems to be more for the benefit of the audience rather than the story itself.
While it remains funny and witty, I could not help but feel like My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 lost its heart, the very thing that made it what it is. While the film is primarily focused on Toula and Vardalos’ own involvement in the writing process has made My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchise the success that it is today, much of the film’s comedy and heartwarming scenes were in the Portokalos family and, more specifically, on Gus. While a fitting tribute for the late actor who played such a special character, the Portokalos family – and the entire film at large – seems at a loss without him.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 works as a sequel to a beloved franchise, but it plays too much on the nostalgia elements to really stand on its own as a film. It may not be the greatest film of the year, but it is one that will allow fans of the film series to revisit these beloved characters and explore Greece with them in a new adventure.
Comedy, Drama | USA, 2023 | 12A | Cinema | 8th September 2023 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir. Nia Vardalos | John Corbett, Nia Vardalos , Elena Kampouris, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Louis Mandylor