My Life in Ruins
2/5   UK title: Driving Aphrodite
dir Donald Petrie
scr Mike Reiss
prd Michelle Chydzik Sowa, Nathalie Marciano
with Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Alexis Georgoulis, Alistair McGowan, Harland Williams, Rachel Dratch, Caroline Goodall, Ian Ogilvy, Sophie Stuckey, Maria Botto, Maria Adanez, Brian Palermo
release US 5.Jun.09, UK 2.Oct.09
09/US 1h35
My Life in Ruins
My big hunky Greek driver: Vardalos and Georgoulis

vardalos freyfuss mcgowan
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My Life in Ruins While there are some witty observations along the way, this tourism rom-com is so resolutely unromantic and unfunny that it feels like a package holiday during which you have to share a hotel room with the group clown.

Georgia (Vardalos) is about to give up on her dream of living in Athens, where she works as a tour guide. She'd rather be teaching Greek history, much to the annoyance of her tour groups, and she has applied for a job back home in America. But there's a five-day tour to get through, during which her rivalry with a colleague (McGown) is sparked to the breaking point. But her bus driver Poupi (Georgoulis) helps her break through to this group and, once he shaves off that woolly beard, might offer something else.

There's a nice story in here, but the film is so relentlessly bland and silly that, every time we start to fall for something cute or romantic, we're assaulted by corny stereotypes or annoying slapstick. Each tourism cliche is present and accounted for, as are the postcard camera angles and contrived romantic entanglements. Everyone on this tour seems to be afflicted by screenwriter-stupidity disorder, in which they can't behave like normal human beings because the script tells them to be idiots.

Even so, it's not all bad news. There are some genuinely amusing moments along the way, and Vardalos is rather good at this tacky style of moviemaking, winning us over by skilfully punching the dialog. Director Petrie strains to make her increasingly sexy as the story progresses is more than a little desperate. And then there's Dreyfuss, who delivers a proper performance as the joke-cracking old guy in the group. He even gets away with the script's most groan-inducing lines ("You're looking for obstacles rather than magic").

In the end, the script manages to trivialise history, culture, age and sexuality as it lumbers to its predictable finale. Even so, there's something oddly comfortable and even charming about a film that's so unchallenging. And the characters all emerge into likeable figures even as things get very sappy and smiley in the end.

cert pg themes, language, innuendo 25.Aug.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall