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My Life in Ruins

A Big, Fat, Greek Mess

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.

Nia Vardalos made a splash a few years ago with the surprise hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was a romantic comedy that resonated for just about anyone who has an awkward, overbearing, or otherwise challenging family. In short, it worked for pretty much everyone. My Life in Ruins aspires to leverage the Greek magic Vardalos pulled off a few years ago with results that are far from magical.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding was an autobiographical piece for Vardalos. The material was genuinely derived from her own experiences and her own family. This authenticity was part of what made the film work. With My Life in Ruins, you’ve got a contrived, half baked story about an aimless Greek tour guide, Georgia (Nia Vardalos), who yearns to be a professor and is socially awkward (at least for most of the film).

Despite her beauty and intelligence, Georgia doesn’t connect with the people on her tours. She consistently fails to engage or entertain her audience and rather than do something about it, she usually pouts and bemoans her "ruinous" fate. It’s not attractive and it makes it tough to root for her. This is not Vardalos’ fault as she’s easy on the eyes, a generally likable actress, and does a serviceable job given the material she’s been dealt. The problem appears to be the writing.

Most of the film is about Georgia trying to rediscover her mojo, passion, or "kefi" (as the Greek call it) during the course of a fairly typical tour of Greece. While it would seem that throwing together an awkward tour guide with a motley crew of tourists would provide ample opportunity for comedy, writer Mike Reiss largely squanders the opportunity by falling back on clichés, stereotypes, and generally juvenile humor that falls flat.

The few laughs that the film elicits are largely unintentional and the credit for these brief moments of comedy is largely attributable to the supporting cast. Rachel Dratch and Harland Williams had some genuinely hilarious moments as the clichéd "ugly Americans" (Kim and Big Al). Dratch and Williams manage to make their ignorance/naiveté vaguely charming (and amusing) throughout the film.

Richard Dreyfuss has the meatiest role as Irv, a widower with a sense of humor and a loud mouth. Irv is the only character in the film who is fleshed out in any substantive way which is unfortunate given that Georgia seemingly should be the focus. Dreyfuss pretty much steals the show every time he’s on screen whether he’s making lewd comments or in the midst of a ménage a trois.

My Life in Ruins has some beautiful vistas and scenery going for it (which must have been a blast for the cast) and a few brief laughs, but otherwise the film is largely a ruinous mess. If you’re expecting a solid follow up to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, lower your expectations….significantly.