Culture

That 'Big Fat Greek' Defense of Family

It’s not easy to catch pop culture by surprise.

Back in 2002, it took an indie comedy about some suffocating Greek relatives to do it. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” gave us an unconventional heroine and so many big, corny laughs we may have missed the bigger picture.

Family matters. Always.

The return of Toula (franchise creator Nia Vardalos) and her Greek kin invites all the obvious scrutiny. Why are we seeing “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” now, 14 years later? Do we still care about these characters? Does anyone remember the first film beyond the patriarch’s Windex fixation?

And yet the film arrives at an interesting time in our culture. The family is undergoing a serious redesign. Splintered families. Unconventional families. Couples without marriage certificates. Same-sex families.

Pop culture often reflects this evolution. Heck, ABC’s long-running “Modern Family” alone captures much of it in each 30-minute installment.

In a way, re-introducing a nuclear family on steroids is the most subversive act Hollywood can offer. And that’s precisely what “Greek Wedding 2” does without apology.

The sequel finds Toula and Ian (John Corbett) raising an independent teen who chafes at the clan’s suffocating love. It’s hard to blame her. Yet rather than depict her as someone who genuinely resents her parents, young Paris (Elena Kampouris) loves her family deeply.

And, whenever the clan looks ready to melt down, which is often, individual family members rally to make sure that never happens.

Yes, the new film makes a nod or two toward a more enlightened time. The Greek women are stronger, more in control of their own destinies. One subplot involves a Greek man seeking the guy, not the girl, of his dreams. It’s handled delicately and with unquestionable love, but there’s no wedding to speak of. Yet.

Much of the family’s antics are played — broadly — for laughs. They comically travel in a pack, shuffling around to make sure they miss nothing of consequence. Vardalos the screenwriter is poking fun at her own traditions, and yet these are not people to be ridiculed. They simply love being Greek and support each other most of all.

Had someone outside of Greek culture depicted a similar situation the results could have been quite different.

You’d think a sequel 14 years in the making would be sharper, more observant than “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” That’s for film critics to hash out. Just know that the franchise’s unabashed respect for the family unit hasn’t aged a day since 2002.

Christian Toto is a freelance writer and editor of HollywoodInToto.com.