film review: My Life in Ruins

The magnificent cliffs overlooking the cerulean Aegean Sea create a romantic and inviting atmosphere. It seems the idyllic place to recharge. In My Life in Ruins, that is what American professor Georgia (a radiant Nia Vardalos) intended when she moved to Greece to teach at Athens University. Instead, she lost her job and subsequently her kefi or “mojo.”

Georgia works at a rag tag tour agency. As she’s an academic, Georgia’s tours have turned into walking academic lectures instead of fun forays to buy crappy souvenirs, eat ice cream, go to the beach and drink. Apparently that is what these tourists want to do. Of course, this begets the question, why vacation in a historically rich destination like Greece? Why not just sit on an island drinking a cocktail?

Predictably, Georgia’s latest tour group is a collection of touristy yahoos: loudmouthed Americans in baseball hats and sneakers [an utterly foolish Rachel Dratch and Harland Williams]; beer-guzzling obnoxious Aussies [Natalie O’Donnell and Simon Gleeson]; stuffy Brits [Caroline Goodall and Ian Oglivy] and their moody teenager [Sophie Stuckey]; and the one decent guy, a well-meaning widower named Irv [Richard Dreyfuss].

Georgia rolls her eyes and trudges onto her bus and launches into auto tour guide mode. Her bus driver is obviously instant make-over material: a hairy and intimidating Greek given the unfortunate juvenile name “Poupi” Kakas (Alexis Georgoulis). Ha ha. [Competing with all those male-dominated films out there, have to get some potty humor in.] Naturally, he’s a diamond in the rough. Poupi swoons at Georgia, is sensitive and a “good listener.” Just how soon until he reveals how cute he his underneath that unibomber look?

Irv pulls Georgia aside for some How Stella Got Her Groove Back advice. She is what 40 after all and single. This is the moment when one wonders who wrote this screenplay anyway. Mike Reiss. A man. And not just any man but the guy responsible for The Simpsons Movie. Really? Nia Vardalos, you must be able to find better material than this. I’ve seen you in Connie and Carla and you can act. You are very funny in non-Greek roles.

The uptight/overworked/stressed woman realizes that she’s been taking herself way too seriously and lightens up. My Life in Ruins unfolds pretty similarly to Under the Tuscan Moon. Georgia literally lets down her hair and allows her inner beauty to shine through.

My Life in Ruins proves to be somewhat fun only because Vardalos is enchanting in this role and illuminates the screen. Only through the captivating spirit of Vardalos, can we believe that Georgia really does find that new outlook on her life, and an optimism, and centered spirit that will take her to the next phase in her life. Unfortunately, My Life in Ruins is too cliche, though a sweet charmer with lovely views of Greece, and a few endearing moments.

STEELE SAYS: MAKE IT A MATINEE OR SAVE IT FOR THE NETFLIX QUEUE

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