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My Life in Ruins
Genre Comedy
Year: 2009

My Life in Ruins is a "romcom" about a tour guide operator rediscovering life and love in Athens, Greece. The premise sounds like fun with a decent cast and romantic setting, however it's star, Nia Vardalos, physically embodies the film's main flaw... it's much lighter than My Big Fat Greek Wedding. My Life in Ruins looks fantastic as a trailer, but the full version can't possibly compete with the highlights reel. So it makes a frivolous, popcorn-munching hour and a half seem worthwhile... aligning its movie status with that of a post card - it's nice to look at, but you only need to view it once.

The film is directed by Donald Petrie (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) and the screenplay is written by Mike Reiss (The Simpsons Movie). Can you spot the weak link? Mike Reiss is an accomplished screenwriter, with writing credits dating as far back as '80s TV shows ALF and Sledge Hammer! His forte is comedy, so it's no wonder he was brought on-board to write what some lovingly refer to as "My Big Fat Greek Vacation". However, Reiss has specialised in animated script writing in the last decade... working on critically-acclaimed cult shows like The Critic and The Simpsons, with a hand in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs more recently. His repertoire includes several live-action shows and films, but the comedy in My Life in Ruins manages to skim along the surface like a skipping stone. There are several laugh out loud moments, although just like Greece from a tour bus, there isn't a full immersion into the characters, culture and comedy.

Now this isn't to say that My Life in Ruins was ruined by the screenplay, but it just felt like a post card tour of Athens. All the famous landmarks were backdrops for the drama and touring, while the vast array of characters tried to connect with the audience in the foreground. The whole character transition played out as the tour group outgrew their stereotypes to experience life more fully. Richard Dreyfuss managed to steady the bus with his supporting act as Irv, the lovable "thorn-in-the-side" tourist. He had some of the funnier lines and also added a sense of spirituality and warmth to the film. Nia Vardolos has trimmed down a dress size or two, but seemed more comfortable in her old skin as the lead in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She manages just fine, although she must have traded the charm in for extra sex appeal when she shed some weight. She stars opposite Alexis Georgoulis, who develops as a tall, dark and unexpected love interest. The cast is reinforced with a few familiar faces, most notably American tourists played by Harland Williams and Rachel Dratch.

My Life in Ruins spews with potential and it's easy to see why Tom Hanks would have wanted to produce, after the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (and not because Rita Wilson made him). The ancient world, landscapes and taste of Greece are superficial, yet beautiful and it's a great setting for some character interplay amongst the tour group. Mamma Mia was a smash holiday hit, so it just seemed like good timing with Nia Vardolos ready to take on another "romcom". So what's missing? Well, apart from a bumpy script and a U.S. tourist overview of Athens, it's the leading man. The role of Poupi felt like a light part written for a star like Adam Sandler, who could have made My Life in Ruins far more enjoyable. He has played the underdog guy in romantic comedies before and the movie called for more heartfelt warmth - so he would have been perfect. Instead, Georgouplis makes a good-looking counterbalance to Vardolos and Dreyfuss has to add some backbone to make up for the lack of a full-bodied name actor.

Nevertheless, the movie gradually improves and moves along at a steady pace, making it a light, summery, fun and entertaining piece of travel, romance and lightweight comedy to chase away the winter blues. It's not as good as My Big Fat Greek Wedding... possibly because the group doesn't have the same sense of community and it lacks an equal-opposite lead and the same Greek charm/spirit as MBFGW.

The bottom line: Lightweight.



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