Rated PG-13 for sexual content, 90 minutes
Sweetly familiar "My Life In Ruins" welcomes back Vardalos
About this time back in 2002, the independent comedy "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" was really taking off and would eventually gross $370 million worldwide on a measly $5 million budget, making it one of the most profitable films of all time. It also made a big star out of its charming lead actress and writer, Nia Vardalos, who was of Greek heritage. Vardalos would go on to star in a ill-conceived TV comedy series based on the movie that bombed and had many wondering whether she was an overrated one-hit wonder. Since then, Vardalos has been largely MIA but returns to channel her Greek roots in the new sweetly familiar, pleasant romantic comedy "My Life in Ruins," which marks a cheerful return for the delightful actress.
Vardalos is Georgia, a Greek-American tour guide who is leading a tour around Greece with an assorted group of misfit tourists who would rather buy a T-shirt than learn about history and culture. In a clash of personalities and cultures, everything seems to go wrong, until one day when older traveler Irv Gordon (Richard Dreyfuss), shows her how to have fun, and to take a good look at the last person she would ever expect to find love with: her Greek bus driver (Alexis Georgoulis).
"My Life In Ruins" is a satisfying, if not overly familiar and predictable, chick flick that succeeds on the appeal of the beautiful, underrated Vardalos. This is essentially a reworked version of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," with Vardalos’ single spinster Greek-American transplanted to Greece as a lonely travel guide looking for love. However, the light-hearted, low-key "Ruins" is a more likable film than the overrated, stereotypical "Greek Wedding," though it may not do as big business at the box-office. Vardalos possesses an empathetic likability – if you liked her in "Greek Wedding" you’ll love her in this – but she runs the risk of being typecast with roles like this.
"Ruins" is directed by "Miss Congeniality" and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" director Donald Petrie, who certainly knows a winning but familiar formula: the charming Vardalos, the lovely scenery, and a handsome suitor while throwing in some amusing moments. Vardalos didn’t pen the script this time, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without flaws. It’s predictable and thinly drawn as it looks: the group of misfit tourists who initially hate Georgia then become pals by the end of the film, not to mention the peculiar love story angle, which really doesn’t develop until the "Ruins’" last act and seems like a stretch. And some of the Greeks are stereotypically drawn as the ones in "Greek Wedding," who sing and dance to Anthony Quinn’s Zorba and all of whom are passionately amorous.
Still, there are some fun moments along the way that lead down to a calculated, expected finale . Dreyfuss is strictly around for comic relief and his goofy, sarcastic wit succeeds most the time, and watch for a cameo from Vardalos pal and the film’s executive producer, Rita Wilson, who co-Executive Produced "Ruins" with her husband Tom Hanks, both of whom also produced "Greek Wedding" and last summer’s Greek-themed hit "Mamma Mia!" (Wilson is half Greek herself, which explains this Greek fixation).
Vardalos is paired with Greek hunk Georgoulis who doesn’t do much but look pretty, not to mention some amusing supporting players, including "Saturday Night Live’s" Rachel Dratch and character actor Harland Williams as a goofy American couple, UK character actress Caroline Goodall as an uptight doctor and fellow Brit Sheila Bernette, who provides some memorably silly moments as an elderly, energetic clepto.
The loveliest thing about "My Life In Ruins" may not be the characters or the story, but the gorgeous, picturesque Grecian scenery seen throughout the film that may inspire you to take your own trip. In the meantime, we can enjoy Vardalos’ winsome, pleasant trip, and we welcome her back, hoping to see more of her in the future.