More excited for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 than Batman v Superman? You’re not alone
Zack Snyder's superhero blockbuster and rom-com sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 will go head to head at the box office this weekend
Sometimes – especially if you’re in a job that requires writing about popular films on a daily basis, are friends with lots of sci-fi/fantasy geeks and like socialising in a place called The Internet – it’s easy to get stuck in a bit of a blockbuster bubble. This is particularly true when it comes to big “event” movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, and, most recently, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (released this Friday).
You get so used to analysing trailers, perusing the internet for leaks and frantically writing about how the film in question is being “released next year/next month/next week/this Friday!” you pretty much forget to think about any other movies being released at the same time. Like My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, for instance.
A sequel to Joel Wick’s 2002 comedy about a Greek-American woman, her loving but ever-so slightly smothering family and her relationship with (horror of horrors) a non-Greek man, MBFGW2 picks up 10 years after the events of the first film. Protagonist Toula (Nia Vardalos) and husband Ian (John Corbett) are now a middle-aged married couple, with a teenage daughter (Elena Kampouris) about to leave for college.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first film when it came out (I was 14 and it had no hobbits, elves or orcs), but I was probably in a minority. Scripted by Vardalos, who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for her efforts, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a phenomenal word-of-mouth success. After a slow beginning (according to Forbes, it took only $567,000 on its limited opening weekend), it went on to make more than $368 million worldwide, and became the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time – attesting to an unexpected public appetite for gentle culture-clash comedy, embarrassing aunt anecdotes and jokes about the efficacy of Windex. It even sparked a spin-off TV sitcom, My Big Fat Greek Life, although this was cancelled after one season.
So far the follow-up, in which Toula’s parents discover they were never legally married and decide to resolve the situation with – you guessed it – a second big fat Greek wedding, has received mixed to negative reviews (Variety called it “saccharine”), and is unlikely to prove quite as successful as its predecessor. But the general consensus seems to be that it delivers more of the same enjoyable, inoffensive comedy.
Bearing this in mind, the fact that it’s being released on the same weekend as Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman is interesting. While the term “counterprogramming” is more commonly used in reference to TV schedules, it’s also extremely pertinent to film openings. Very few studios would risk putting a big-budget franchise movie up against a similar high-stakes release from another studio: audiences would be split, and both movies would likely suffer.
But according to The Hollywood Reporter, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which is expected to have a box office opening “in the $10 million-$15 million range”, is aiming “to draw older women and men not so interested in feuding superheroes”.
In other words, the expectation is that while most cinema-goers will flock to see Batman and Superman battle it out (the film is predicted to take $150 million at the US box office during its opening weekend), those with absolutely no interest in catching the superhero blockbuster are exactly the sort of people to want to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Similar thinking was at work when the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters was released on December 18 2015 (head to head with Star Wars: The Force Awakens).
In a quest to step outside the “blockbuster bubble”, I decided to see if I could find some of the cinema-goers planning to catch MBFGW2 this weekend. Initial queries led to a predictable chorus of derision – “anyone who is excited for My Big Fat Greek Wedding more needs to get a lobotomy” observed one of my Twitter followers. “No. No. No. No,” said another friend, via Facebook. But a wider search yielded a coterie of fans who can’t wait for MBFGW2 – and who really aren’t all that fussed about Dawn of Justice.
Disappointingly (it’s always fun when stereotypes get overturned) but predictably, the overwhelming majority of these, whether they were personal friends or “people on Twitter”, were women.
OMG My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 😱😍🙋❤❤🔥🔥 This makes me soo happy lol. Can't wait to watch it 👌— C L A R E (@ClareCoxe) March 22, 2016
The only thing getting me through this week is that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 comes out this Friday— Kayla Weeks (@kayjay_weeks) March 22, 2016
Batman v Superman certainly isn’t a female-free zone – if early reports are anything to go by, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman plays a key part in the film (and seriously “out-cools” virtually all of the male characters while she’s at it). But it’d be fair to say that most of the marketing so far has focused on the masculine drama of the Batman/Superman clash.
She wants to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and I want to watch Superman vs Batman😭😭— Black Butterfly (@Mfundo_Memani) March 22, 2016
Vardalos, on the other hand, has stressed that her film focuses on everyday female experience, implying that she and the filmmakers behind MBFGW2 know their demographic.
"Nobody’s going to tell our stories for us, we have to tell them," she said, in a recent Radio Times interview. "People say I'm a female screenwriter and I say ‘my vagina didn’t write my screenplays, I'm a screenwriter.' At the same time there's such an unemployed amount of females that have stories to tell in Hollywood and here [in Britain]. In that way I do celebrate my gender. We have so many things we are dealing with all the time."
Elsewhere, there was also a sense of fatigue/ “seen it all before” from more casual fans of the superhero genre – some of whom felt that a 14-years-in-the making rom-com sequel might yet offer something more refreshing than Snyder’s long-awaited epic.
“I would say I am more excited for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. I haven’t seen the first one but it looks funny,” said Annabelle, a 21-year-old student from Brighton, when I asked her which of the two films she’d be checking out this weekend.
“I liked the original Batman films a lot but the Batman v Superman actors are different, aren’t they? It’s not Christian Bale anymore so it’s not really the same for me.”