Producers: Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman Director: Nia Vardalos Screenplay: Nia Vardalos Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Andrea Martin, Louis Mandylor, Elena Kampouris, Elias Kacavas, Maria Vacratsis, Lainie Kazan, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Anthi Andreopoulou, Alexis Georgoulis, Giannis Vasilottos, Stephanie Nur, Melina Kotselou, Dimosthenis Filippas and Gerry Mendicino Distributor: Focus Features
Less a finished movie than an inchoate idea for one, Nia Vardalos’ third installment of her “Greek Wedding” series is like a ninety-minute montage of bits and pieces of plot that are resolved without ever having been developed. The scenery and cinematography are pretty, though; the film was shot by Barry Peterson in the area around Athens and on Corfu, and the locales are often spectacular.
The overarching premise is a reunion of the Portokalos family at the Greek village where the clan’s recently deceased patriarch Gus (Michael Constantine, who pretty much stole the first two films and is a looming if invisible presence here despite the actor’s having died in 2021) was born. Before he passed, the Chicago restaurateur, whose place was the Dancing Zorba and whose wonder drug was Windex, tasked his ever-compliant daughter Toula (Vardalos) with taking a journal he’d compiled about his life to his three best childhood friends, with whom he’d apparently lost touch after departing Greece.
So Toula, her husband Ian Miller (John Corbett), her brother Nick (Louis Mandylor) and their aunts Voula (Andrea Martin) and Freida (Maria Vacratsis) have arranged for a passel of relatives to fly over to Greece for a big shebang. Among the others are Toula and Ian’s daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris), now in college, and Aristotle (Elias Kacavas), a handsome young fellow Paris had dated once but then ghosted. (Her boyfriend from “Wedding 2” goes unmentioned.) Gus’s widow Maria (Lainie Kazan), is unfortunately left back home; suffering from dementia, she can’t travel. But in telephone conversations she has those moments of lucidity familiar in fictional accounts of people in her condition, whenever they’re required to help with exposition.
When the group arrives at the ancestral village, courtesy of a ride along winding mountain roads in a rickety truck provided by the excitedly garrulous village mayor Victory (Melina Kotselou), they find the place pristine as only a production designer like Grant Armstrong can make it but deserted except, it seems, for Victory and irascible old Alexandra (Anthi Andreopoulou). The spring that provided water, it seems, has dried up, and the residents decamped for elsewhere.
There are, however, a few others about. One is Qamar (Stephanie Nur), a beautiful Syrian refugee whom Alexandra has taken in. Other are a mysterious man named Peter (Alexis Georgoulis) and his son Christos (Giannis Vasilottos), whose presence proves the key to revealing a long-buried Portokalos family secret.
The plot rambles into a bewildering variety of other threads. Toula enlists cousins Nikki (Gia Carides) and Angelo (Joey Fatone) to track down Gus’s old pals and return them to the village. Ian ambles off to talk with a monk (Dimosthenis Filippas) who might have some useful information. Nick, while constantly seeing to his appearance, is determined to find the town’s oldest tree for a mission of his own. Paris and Aristotle, thrown together by Victory, inevitably get close, though not as close as Christos and Qamar already prove to be. The village is suddenly a magnet for throngs of people, and is revivified along with that stopped-up spring. There’s even talk of a solution to the refugee crisis in the region. And of course, it all brings Toula and Ian even closer. Why not a third wedding to bring the festivities to a close? (No reveal about the identities of bride and groom.)
The result is a genial clutter, which meanders from character to character and episode to episode with little effort at structure or sense. Individual sequences are lackadaisically written—lame, vaudeville-quality jokes are plentiful, but wit in very short supply–and even more lackadaisically directed by Vardalos, with free rein given to Martin, Andreopoulou and Mandylor to go into full-bore wacky mode while others, like Corbett, are allowed to saunter bemusedly through the chaos unconcerned. Most of the cast are simply there, often seeming at a loss as to how to play the material; Vardalos herself is a particular blank, frequently appearing barely to know where she is. (The vacant look in her eyes in the repeated cuts to her face as the family drives from the airport through Athens on their arrival is a perfect example.)
Editors Annette Davey and Craig Herring try to give some shape and rhythm to the movie, but fail, and composer Stephanie Economou attempts to invest the movie with a feeling of unrestrained joy (with, of course, a touch of melancholy where required), but the mix just doesn’t jell. Like Armstrong’s production design, Timothy A. Wonsik’s costumes are colorful but look brand spanking new, straight off the sewing machine. Together with Peterson’s lustrous shots of the locations, they make the movie easy on the eye, except for the sun-drenched brightness of it all; the lantern-lit evening sequences will prove more comfortable for some.
Despite its hand-down quality, the movie will probably appeal to those who found the previous entries in this series to their liking. Still, the moral of this third “Wedding” installment, which strives mightily for a candy-colored vision of old-country earthiness while delivering a brutally stereotypical view of traditional culture, is that while you can go home again, it’s probably best not to.
Maybe a shot of Windex is in order.