My Life in Ruins
Directed by Donald Petrie
The Oracle of Delphi predicts: you might enjoy this movie if you are a woman of a certain age (fortyish), cultural identity (Greek American), temperament (uptight), and taste for mid-nineties soft rock. But probably not.
Written by Mike Reiss and directed by Donald Petrie, My Life in Ruins is a vehicle for My Big Fat Greek Wedding writer/star Nia Vardalos. Yet the sincerity and wit that made the latter small film memorable has been replaced with big-name actors cast in stereotypical roles and formulaic romantic comedy plot turns (if you can still call them turns). The film finds Georgia (Vardalos) bussing foreigners through her fatherland as a tour guide. In a professional and romantic rut, she has, as the Greeks say, lost her kefi, or spirit. Meanwhile, Richard Dreyfuss plays a mourning widower who becomes the group’s guru on his first solo tour; Rachel Dratch and Harland Williams have had better comedic turns than as a pair of obnoxious Americans; a wealthy British couple and their perpetually bored pre-teen daughter bicker constantly; and two Aussies raise Foster’s cans and chirp unintelligibly now and then. Ultimately, colossal life lessons are learned over the course of the week-long tour, and laughter eked out of characters unfortunately named Poupi.
Though it takes place entirely in Greece, the film favors claustrophobic shots of spastic characters — fanning themselves on an un-air-conditioned bus — rather than the actual ruins. The camera steps back for a long pans of the occasional temple, though it doesn’t help the sense of being force-fed scenic wonder when a character says, “Isn’t it incredible?” just beforehand. A cheesy guided tour you might never again take.