I’m always a bit surprised when something is labeled a “surprise hit.” All movies – or at least most – are, presumably, released in the hopes and with the expectation that they will appeal to enough of the audience to be considered a success. So the label becomes more about the expectations of outsiders, particularly in the press, than anything indicative of the movie itself. So by that measure 2002’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos’ exploration of her own Greek family and culture wrapped in the setting of a romantic comedy, was certainly a surprise hit. She was unknown, it featured no big stars and the sole prestige it carried was that it was produced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
After 14 years the Portokalos family is back with My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Picking up the story after all these years Toula (Vardalos) and her husband Ian (John Corbett) are back, this time with teenage daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris). While the parents are fretting over Paris’ increasing independence Toula’s parents find out they were never officially married because the priest never signed the license. Wackiness ensues as Toula has to deal with her daughter getting older and the need to plan another wedding, this time for her own parents.
The movie’s teaser one-sheet recreates the poster for the first movie, but with a bit of updating. So once again you have Vardalos and Corbett on the right of the poster with a collection of relatives bursting through the strip on the left, all reaching out and trying to get her attention. This time, though, the couple are joined by their daughter, who looks over the crowd.
The decision to use the same format and look as the original poster is pretty smart. It immediately tells the audience that this is a return to familiar territory, that it’s just an updating of something they’ve already enjoyed. There’s enough new information here to give everyone a sense of what’s coming – the addition of the daughter in particular – otherwise this is selling comfort food. And try not to think about how the lack of original ideas on the poster may signal a lack of original ideas in the movie itself.
We’re transported back to the first movie in the opening of the first trailer (which debuted on The Today Show in a nice bit of corporate synergy) as we see that the daughter of the couple is now getting ready to go to college. She’s feeling a bit constrained by the huge family that’s always right there, as is Vardalos’ character. While we continue to follow the daughter’s story we also see that some of the grandparents are, through a quirk of paperwork, not actually married. So their journey to the alter looks to provide a good amount of the movie’s comedy.
It’s a decent trailer, but it comes off as a bit disjointed as it bounced back and forth between showing the story of the college-bound daughter and the grandparents who are arranging their own wedding. It looks pretty funny in a nice, inoffensive kind of way, even if 90% of the humor is tied to ethnicity. Basically this is exactly what the fans who loved the first one are likely looking for.
Online and Social
The main page of the movie’s official website, which is built on Tumblr, has a collection of promotional and countdown images, GIFs and short videos from both this movie and the first one that you can reblog or otherwise share on your social channels.
There’s a menu at the top of the page and the first option there is “My Big Fat ____ Moment.” That takes you to a separate site where you can create a custom graphic by playing what’s essentially Mad Libs, filling in an adjective and then a noun. You can then add a photo of your own if you like and then share it to the gallery on the site and or post it to your own social networks profiles.
After that is the “Toula or Ian” quiz, which requires you to register to take a little personality quiz.
Back to the main site, there isn’t much else there. “About” has a decent synopsis of the plot and you can play the trailer by clicking “Trailer.” Windex is the only “Partner” (more on that below) and that’s it.
The movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles weren’t exactly massive examples of content marketing done right, but they get the job done with promotional images, short videos and more. The Facebook page is filled with images that, it’s hoped, will get Liked enough to make it into your News Feed and Twitter has RTs of interviews with the cast as well as those same promotional images, which are what form the crux of the Instagram profile’s output.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A bunch of TV spots were run that all took their own approach with using scenes we’d already seen in the trailer. So some focused on this being a sequel to the 2002 movie, some just focused on the wedding plot, some went heavier on the Paris story and so on. But they all get the basic point across, that this is another trip into a family filled with heavy Greek accents.
There were lots of online ads run that used the movie’s key art in banners and skyscrapers.
Windex signed on as a promotional partner and ran a full campaign of their own, taking advantage of the fact that the brand got such a shoutout in the first movie and looking to formalize and capitalize on it this time around. It ran co-branded TV spots that promoted the movie and its products and offered discounted movie tickets online.
Media and Publicity
Some of the first press came in an interview with Vardalos and others about not just the unexpected success of the first movie but, of course, what it was like to return to these characters after so long.
The cast talked about the movie and what it was like to return to the story at the premiere, which coincided with Vardalos and others appearing on various late night and early morning talk shows to hit roughly the same beats. And Vardalos kept talking about the themes of the movie as well as how female writers and filmmakers have to support and create for each other to overcome some of Hollywood’s inherent biases.
The campaign amounts to one big charm offensive. It’s consistently reminding us of the first movie that more of us liked than the studio was anticipating and saying that hey, this is more of the same. Sure, the seasoning may be different but it’s basically the dish you liked the last time you were here so eat up. And there is a lot to like here. Vardalos is working hard to make sure she took her time here and didn’t just rush out a sequel in 2003 like she easily could have.
The campaign sells a movie that is indeed charming but which is going to appeal to…actually I think this is going to appeal to the same demographic, or at least the same people, as the first one. The 2002 movie wasn’t exactly aimed at young people and this one isn’t either. It’s for people who want something mildly amusing on a Friday night, either at the theater or at home, with their significant others. This isn’t “wacky” romcom territory, it’s more heartfelt. So if you liked the first movie you will likely be interested in this one, though it may not be enough to pull you out to the theater.