Early responses to My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 have not been kind. Entertainment Weekly called it "a tired and unnecessary retread that not even a healthy spritz of Windex can cure." Slant backhand complimented it thusly: "As far as shameless excuses to rehash crowd-pleasing gags from the first film go, it doesn't particularly go about its duties cynically." Even Us Weekly, that bastion of film criticism, has deemed the film a "big fat waste of time." The general consensus seems to be that MBFGW 2 has no place in this world, that it's a mere shadow of its predecessor, that it's a flagrant exploitation of nostalgia and of the human race at large.
I have not seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, but I absolutely plan on seeing My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. This is because none of the things I've just listed — the purposelessness, the redundancy, the undisguised abuse of the design flaws in the human brain — register as "negative" to me. In fact, I'd argue that nearly every sequel that's ever graced our screens has been "unnecessary," or "pointless," or "glaringly flawed" or "threatening to national security." But then again, so are are all movies! So is life itself! And once you've recognized the utter futility of your own existence, what's a harmless little sequel going to hurt? Considering the immutable fact that we're all hurtling toward death, I think it's fair, on occasion, to watch and allow yourself to enjoy a film whose only virtue is that it stars a previously resonant and beloved character.
To be clear, I'm not talking about watching Sequels That Are Better Than the Original. I'm talking about watching Sequels That Are Watered-Down Versions of the Original, At Best, But Still Deserve Their Place in History/Your DVR. Like, sure, maybe there wasn't enough meat in the first movie to make a leftovers sandwich the next day, but somebody did, and they're handing it to you, and you're hungry, and sure, it's mostly mayo and lettuce, but sometimes you want mayo and lettuce, you know? In the spirit of mayo and lettuce sandwiches, here's a list in praise of sequels that are relatively enjoyable despite the fact that we did not need or ask for them.
Father Of The Bride 2
Father of the Bride is, from start to finish, a perfectly lovely film about growing up and letting go and embracing the natural rhythms of change. It ends with all of its characters doing just that: Annie Banks (Kimberly Williams) gets married to the limb-flinging assassin from Scandal (George Newbern) and leaves home; George (Steve Martin) and Nina (Diane Keaton) Banks say good-bye to their daughter as she embarks on her honeymoon and slow-dance in their empty house, tacitly accepting her departure. Were we to heed the lessons put forth by this film, there would've been no reason to revisit this family, or pollute this pure American narrative about rich white people getting everything they want. But we did not heed. We did not let go. We made Diane Keaton come back and birth a baby at the same time as her on-screen daughter. We made Steve Martin embark on a clichéd mid-life crisis triggered by his on-screen daughter's incredibly normal decision to have a child. We made Martin Short do that whole … thing again. And, somehow, it fucking worked. Father of the Bride 2 is emotional terrorism, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment. If you can watch this movie without weeping into a bowl already filled with your tears from watching its predecessor, you're a better man than I.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Bridget Jones the First ends with Bridget (Renée Zellweger) and Platonic Ideal of a Human Man Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) happily doing it on the reg, eating scrumpets with mint vinegar or whatever it is that British people eat postcoitally. In the second Bridget Jones film, Bridget goes to prison after being caught with enough cocaine to kill the entire extended Banks family. To a lot of people, including Roger Ebert, this was a contrived and stupid plot development (albeit one dreamed up by the OG author, Helen Fielding, in the book this film is based on) that shook the sturdy, sexy tree that was the first Bridget Jones film; this movie was waylaid by critics for being, you guessed it, "an unnecessary sequel" (verbatim!) and "a ham-fisted replay" of the original. To me, this plot development was inspired and strange, the sort of surreal and nonsensical thing that Bridget Jones herself might dream up were she to write and direct a rom-com after drunkenly watching Brokedown Palace one too many times. I would never take back the moments I spent watching Renée Zellweger, high on hallucinogens, cavorting about on a Thai beach with an actual person named Shazzer. (I would take back the uncomfortable stereotyping of Thai women and that thing where Jacinda Barrett tells Bridget she's been in love with her the whole time because what?) All that said, I am terrified for Bridget Jones 3, the trailer for which dropped yesterday and includes a brief but haunting Ed Sheeran cameo.
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
The original Sister Act was the definition of high concept, the kind of tight and terrifically conceived narrative that will haunt Michael Bay until his dying moments. As with Bridget Jones's Diary and Father of the Bride, Sister Act stuck its landing, ending with the kind of heartwarming and meaningless fluff we've come to expect from our nation's most harmless and well-neutered comedies. Sister Act did not lend itself to a follow-up; we did not need to know what happened to Vegas headliner Deloris Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) after she redeemed a bunch of nuns (standard Vegas shit) or what happened to a bunch of nuns (boring nun shit) after they were redeemed by a Vegas headliner. Yet here we are, admitting that while Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit flies in the face of all that is holy about Sister Act, it is often quite delightful in its own right. The titular pun alone is enough justification for Sister Act 2's existence (as is the case with a staggering number of sequels, e.g., Legally Blonde: Red, White, and Blonde, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, etc.), But what makes this thing actually watchable is Lauryn Hill — whose portrayal of angsty teen Rita is surprisingly moving and whose recent tailspin throws the whole performance into even sharper relief — and to Rainer Maria Rilke, an intense and dead German who pops up out of literally nowhere to propel Rita toward her major act of defiance.
As someone whose parents essentially deferred parenting duties to the original Grease, I feel qualified to say this: Grease is not a good movie. It is regressive and sexist and too long and everyone is 96 years old. Grease 2 takes everything that was terrible about Grease and amplifies it. The music is very bad. The plot is deeply insane. The acting is a nightmare from which you feel you will never wake, and then you do, but you realize you've been left with unimpeachable memories of that nightmare for the rest of your life. This is why I love it. Grease 2 is unapologetically itself. It is not, for one moment, pretending to be interested in being a good movie. Grease 2 is the thirstiest film I've ever seen, interested only in both paying homage to and lightly reprimanding Grease for its awful gender politics. This is admirable. Grease 2 is obsessed with Grease, but like, in a nonthreatening and only vaguely delusional way. Grease 2 follows Grease home, camps out outside said home, watches Grease shower, watches Grease eat dinner while watching Grease, then comes up to Grease at school the next day and gives it incredibly misguided but well-intentioned advice about its life choices. Also, there is Michelle Pfeiffer.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Home Alone rested its premise on a very fine line, the line between well-meaning but forgetful parents and parents who deserve to have their children forcibly removed from their care. What kept it on the former side of that line was the fact that Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) seemed genuinely shocked to have been left home alone, as was his mother (Catherine O'Hara) to have left him there, implying that this was not a regular occurrence. (An argument for the latter side, of course, is the fact that Kevin is a complete sociopath.) All parties involved were horrified by the incident and there was an unspoken understanding that nothing of this nature would ever occur again. The very existence of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York automatically negates this understanding. Are we truly meant to believe that Kevin's parents would fuck up this badly again and that the authorities would not wrest him from their very loose and worryingly casual grasp? Home Alone 2 argues, rather convincingly, yes. If we didn't suspend this particular disbelief, how else would we receive the gift of this sappy-ass portrait of New York at Christmastime? Where else would we learn to love a woman coated in pigeons? What other film would teach us that cute white rich kids are safe wherever they go, even if that place is on the streets of New York City in the dead of winter? It should be noted, though, that all of the rest of the Home Alone sequels are trash.