It's been 14 years since Nia Vardalos' warm comedy about her raucous extended family became the sleeper hit of the 2002, and now she's back with more of the same silliness. It all feels rather predictable this time around, although there are some terrific comical moments along the way. And the cast is genuinely likeable, even if the characters are fairly thin.
So after all this time, Toula (Vardalos) and her husband Ian (John Corbett) are still living on the same street as Toula's many relatives. She's also running the family cafe with her parents Gus and Maria (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan), who are bickering because they just discovered that they're not legally married. Meanwhile, Toula and Ian are struggling to rekindle the spark in their marriage as they both worry about the coming day when their 17-year-old daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) goes off to university. As meddling Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) tries to find a suitable Greek boy for Paris, everyone is planning Gus and Maria's wedding. Which of course can't be a small occasion.
None of the movie's interwoven plot threads has any tension at all in it, so the film meanders amiably along. There's never any doubt that Toula and Ian will reawaken their romance, that Gus and Maria will renew their vows or that Paris will find her independence. And without any proper conflict, the film struggles to get the audience involved in any meaningful way beyond laughing at the engaging characters. Director Kirk Jones (who made the original Nanny McPhee) occasionally tips things over into physical slapstick or full-on farce, plus several very cheap gags, but most of the humour is centred on the wacky cultural antics of these colourful family members. The actors invest plenty of charm into their roles, with Martin once again stealing the film as the uproariously over-involved Voula.
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This starry drama has documentary realism going for it, although without a single well-developed character it never finds any resonance. By recounting JFK's assassination from a variety of previously unseen angles, we learn some new things about that fateful day in November 1963. Oddly, the script doesn't even focus on the hospital that gives the film its name. That might have helped give the film some focus.
We watch the shooting in Dallas through the eyes of Abraham Zapruder (Giamatti), famously the only person to capture the event on film. He is immediately contacted by a Secret Service agent (Thornton), who helps him process the film and make copies. Meanwhile at Parkland Hospital, two residents (Efron and Hanks) and a tenacious nurse (Harden) are working against the odds to save Kennedy's life. And elsewhere, an FBI agent (Livingston) is following the trail of the shooter, whose brother and mother (Dale and Weaver) have very different reactions to what has just happened.
Writer-director Landesman jumps straight into the events without properly establishing the characters. But it's impossible to feel emotion when we don't know anything about the people we're watching, and we can't feel suspense when we know what's going to happen. So we're left to soak up the details, which are often fascinating (ever wonder how to get a coffin into a plane?). And while the actors are good enough to play the intensity of each scene for all it's worth, the only ones who register with us are Giamatti and Dale, because what their characters go through is more complex than we expect.
Continue reading: Parkland Review
Have a spookily musical Halloween this year.