‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3’ Review: N’opa!

Nia Vardalos seized the movie industry’s attention two decades ago when she wrote and starred in the loosely autobiographical “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” an indie charmer that remains the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time.

Audiences rallied behind her relatable Toula Portokalos, a wallflower Chicago waitress who straightened both her hair and her spine despite the protests of her domineering family. As Toula fought to leave her father’s restaurant, forge her own career and marry her non-Greek boyfriend (John Corbett), many moviegoers saw themselves in her hard-won successes.

But so much for empowerment this time around. “It’s a badge of honor to take care of people,” Toula narrates humbly at the top of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.” This is the first film in the franchise that Vardalos not only performs in and writes, but also directs — although, in truth, she’s barely the star.

This noisy sequel cedes the punchlines and the plotlines to the more cacophonous members of the Portokalos clan, particularly Andrea Martin’s returning scene-stealer, the busybody Aunt Voula. (“I’m not a gossip, I’m a tattletale,” Voula huffs.) While the ensemble bickers and schemes, or, in the case of Toula’s preening brother Nick (Louis Mandylor), publicly shaves himself at inappropriate times, Toula’s laughs come only at her expense. (Hitting her head, falling off a donkey and so forth.) The script functions like a recipe for its own opening shot of baklava; flattened and bland, Toula exists only to constrain the nuts.

The story starts after the passing of Toula’s father, Gus, the patriarch played with grumbling affection by Michael Constantine, who died in 2021. To honor Gus, a grab-bag of family members takes their first-ever trip to Greece to visit his mountainous childhood home, a near-abandoned hamlet near(ish) the beach. Only six people remain in the village, and two of them are secretly dating — the series’s core trope remains a hushed romance.

This and dozens of other tiny conflicts ripple through the movie, resolving themselves with a hug or an absent-minded cutaway before any one problem swells into something worth our concern. The oddest disposable gag comes when Toula blurts her sexual attraction to a mustachioed stranger (Alexis Georgoulis). The man immediately reveals himself to be a relative.

The ancient Greeks wrote tragedy after tragedy warning against hubris. Yet, Vardalos’s flailing crowd-pleaser needs a shot of self-confidence and logic. Why has Toula, a micromanaging former travel guide, flown her relatives overseas without thinking to book a hotel? Why would we believe that her square daughter (Elena Kampouris) is, with zero evidence, a wild child on the edge of sabotaging her life? And why do some of the rural Greeks speak English with a better accent than Aunt Voula? Nothing adds up.

Not that I begrudge Martin a single one of her quips. If Vardalos is no longer comfortable at the center of the franchise, hand the whole thing over to her.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3
Rated PG-13 for a suggestive scene on a nude beach with strategically placed slices of watermelon. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. In theaters.

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