When I got the invitation for the screening of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, I felt like maybe I was alone in the initial reaction of not remembering that there was a second film. The more I mentioned it to people, I found that I was not on that island by myself (no pun intended), but I also did not find myself seeking it out before watching this installment as I am kind of enjoying the technique of just going into a sequel with no changes. I have heard that the second one was nothing short of forgettable, but again I honestly cannot say whether or not I have actually seen it. Luckily, this one should redeem the series (remember, there was a short-lived television series too) for fans.
This time around, the family led by Toula (Nia Vardalos, who also writes again and directs for the first of the series) heads to a village in Greece for a reunion of her parents’ friends to both reconnect with their heritage and deliver the journal of her late father to his three best friends. As one can imagine, shenanigans abound on multiple levels as secrets are revealed, roots are re-established, and laughs abound.
One of the things I really like about Vardalos as a writer is how she truly not only understands how to portray family on screen but also that she knows how each and every member needs their own story to contribute to the larger narrative. This is the absolute definition of an ensemble film with names like John Corbett, Louis Mandylor, Lanie Kazan, Andrea Martin, and Joey Fatone with both the veteran characters and newcomers like Elias Kacavas and Maria Vacratsis all fully capable and up to the task. As they find out that the reunion promised by “mayor” Victory (Melina Kotselou, who plays the role with just enough pep and spirit to flirt with parody but staying just on this side of that line) may not be exactly what they expected, they all take the time overseas to explore their own paths while all seemingly helping each other with theirs, and at the crux of it that is what family truly is. There are no moments to this film that felt manufactured or forced; that is how truly enjoyable this script and those bringing it to life is.
As a director (this is her second time in the chair), Vardalos really does have an eye for making sure her actors and their surroundings are always the best version of themselves. Sure, shooting on location helps here, but there still needs to be an eye behind the camera to capture it in a way where there is a balance that does not distract in the favor of any element in a scene. As the writer of the film, Vardalos seems to be able to change hats between those roles well staying faithful to the vision of the story while understanding how to keep that story moving on screen. The back stories of the main characters are also referenced in a way where this film could stand alone as a “jumping on” point with minimal to no confusion as to what is going on.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 really is a breath of fresh air amongst all of the action and adventure that the summer movie season seems to bring as we transition into fall and the final quarter of 2023. This is not just a great date movie; it is one that can be enjoyed just hanging out with friends and/or family with something that all of us can identify with regardless of the size of the family you belong to.