This Big, Fat, Greek Family is Still a Good Time Two Decades Later


Poster for MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3 (2023)

They say if ain’t a good story, it better be a good time, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 has a lot of story.

Though it’s been seven years since My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, we’re picking up with the Portokalos family less than a year since they dropped Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian’s (John Corbett) daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) off at NYU in the final scene. While Toula is still practicing letting go of her daughter, her bigger concern now is helping her family adjust to the loss of her father and head of family, Gus (played in the first two films by Michael Constantine, who passed away in 2021). One of his final requests was that his family to travel to Greece and reunite with his childhood friends, but because of the distance and because her mother Maria (Lainie Kazan) is showing early signs of memory loss, the pressure is yet again on Toula to make her dad’s dreams come true.

(L to R) Elena Kampouris as "Paris", Elias Kacavas as "Aristotle", Andrea Martin as "Aunt Voula", Nia Vardalos as "Toula", Louis Mandylor as "Nick", and John Corbett as "Ian" in writer/director Nia Vardalos' MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3, a Focus Features release. Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis / Focus Features

My Big Fat Greek Wedding has cemented its status as a romantic comedy classic, and we still have good reason to want to spend time with this family 20 years later. Though the Portokalos family is one-of-a-kind in its obsession with Greek culture and history, they resemble our own weird, wonderful families each with their own obsessions. In the first two films, they dealt with universal challenges like loneliness, xenophobia, insecurity, health scares, college acceptance letters, and, of course, planning big weddings. Their problems are just as relatable in their third adventure, even if none of us have planned a family reunion in a forgotten village. Toula is feeling like a failure, Ian is feeling forgotten, Paris is keeping a secret, and Nick (Louis Mandylor) is finding his place in a family without a father. Also, Paris’s ex (Elias Kacavas) shows up unexpectedly, family secrets are unearthed, and we have to find something for Joey Fatone to do! And that’s not all—listing every plot thread in this sequel would turn this review into ancient history.

The challenge in writing for a big, fat family is finding arcs for each of them—otherwise they’re just there—and finding adequate time to tell each of them. Though returning characters have thinned because several actors have passed away and because a plot centered on a trip can remove people as needed, this sequel introduces new ones to replace them without the time needed to develop them. More movies should be 91 minutes long, but if this one wanted to explore how the Syrian refugee crisis has impacted Greece, it should’ve added a few more minutes or cut some competing storylines. 

(L to R) Elena Kampouris stars as "Paris" and Elias Kacavas stars as "Aristotle" in writer/director Nia Vardalos' MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3, a Focus Features release. Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis / Focus Features

Fortunately, even with all that story, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is still a good time. Toula’s family is way funnier than our own families are, and this cast clearly still enjoys spending time with each other 20 years later, sometimes even working together outside this franchise (such as when Corbett co-starred with Vardalos in her 2009 feature directing debut, I Hate Valentine’s Day). Vardalos is returning to the directing chair for this movie, and one of her strengths is knowing how and when to let her hilarious co-stars cook, which means Andrea Martin’s Aunt Voula gets plenty of moments to prove she’s still a GOAT. Vardalos’s directing is also a step up from the Netflix and Hallmark-style movies that have become the de facto purgatory for rom-coms and family comedies in the last 10 years. Those made-for-TV-and-streaming film often cut production values, shoot “on location” in front of a green screen, and become emotionally manipulative. Vardalos, on the other hand, knows where and when to place the camera to highlight the home country’s Venus-like beauty, and the obligatory wedding is dreamy down to the details. Though the emotions live on the surface for the Portokalos family, they are refreshingly only manipulative with each other, not the audience.