By Kathryn Whitney Boole

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is a charming look into the life of a large extended family whose older members brought traditions from their culture into their new Chicago neighborhood. It is refreshingly honest, simple and cute, and does not pretend to be anything but a fun romantic family story with characters you want to get to know.

This second chapter in the franchise was a long time coming, and it’s extraordinary that most of the actors returned from the original “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movie after 14 years. It is due to the skill and passion of writer/producer/star Nia Vardalos that so many embraced this reunion.

In fact, the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” franchise has flourished outside all of the “boxes” of what makes a successful project in the entertainment industry. Vardalos wrote both films and stars as Toula. Vardalos is in reality the daughter of Greek Canadian parents and grew up in a neighborhood dominated by Greek families in Winnipeg. Her husband converted to her Greek Orthodox Catholic religion prior to their wedding, as did Toula’s husband in the film, so these two movies are very much Vardalos’ own story. Her career began as a member of the famous Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, in which the actors have to write much of their own material.

Years later Rita Wilson, who is half Greek herself, attended a one-woman autobiographical comedy show written and performed by Vardalos in Los Angeles. She persuaded her husband Tom Hanks to shop around the idea for a film based on the show. So, the first “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002) was created, at a budget of only $5 million to $6 million. It was so well received that it became the second-most profitable film ever, grossing $369 million worldwide. The second film, since being released on March 25th of this year, has already more than recouped its $18-million budget, sitting at $26.4 million and still going strong.

Part of the success of these movies is in the genuine camaraderie of the cast. All of the major players are back from the original film: Vardalos, of course, John Corbett as her husband, veteran TV/film actor Michael Constantine, now an energetic 88 years old, as her father, and Laine Kazan, another veteran, as her mother. Also returning is comedienne Andrea Martin, whose career began in musical theater, as Aunt Voula. Bess Meisler once again steals scenes as the hilarious “YiaYia” (Grandma). British director Kirk Jones (“Waking Ned Devine”) has created a warm and relaxed atmosphere. It’s easy to feel at home in the environment of this film.

Whether you saw the original “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” or not, you will feel part of this crazy extended family by the end of the movie. And, whether or not your family has recent immigrants, or if you’re a Native American, or if you’re an immigrant yourself, you will recognize some of these characters that will remind you of your friends and family. It’s like a wacky visit with your relatives — the fun ones.

Rated PG-13. 94 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.