My Life in Ruins

Posted June 4, 2009 in Film

Writer-actress Nia Vardalos’ first follow up to the fluke hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding had her playing the role of a Chicago drag queen. It flopped. This time, she’s taking no chances. “Greece!” Vardalos exclaims in the breathless opening seconds. After a minute of clichés about the country culled from the nearest textbook, it turns out that’s the last time she’ll say a nice word about the place. Playing tour guide Georgia, an American classics professor slumming as an Athenian tour guide, Vardalos huffs that the culture that made her a millionaire is made of slackers, molesters and thieves. It’s a shock tourists even want to visit. No, really, as Vardalos’ misanthropy extends to everyone in her tour bus: the skanky Spanish divorcees, the drunken Australians, the miserable Brits and of course the stupid Americans, who turn out to be so dumb that one of them doesn’t even realize he’s in Greece. The script gives Georgia good reason to hate her clients; in one scene, they sniff that souvlaki—a staple at your local mall— must be made of poodle, and stampede en masse to the Hard Rock Cafe. What it doesn’t give us is any reason to watch this sour mess. At least, the Big Fat Greek franchise celebrated harmony. Here, every note groans, from the bus driver named “Poupi Kakas” to the Yanks who beam that Georgia “speaks American!” (Frustration at those who don’t speak English—and spite for those who do—is continual.) By way of a plot, we learn that Georgia needs to get laid, a challenge that occupies most of the bus, particularly widower Irv (Richard Dreyfuss). Not because he wants a piece of her baklava himself—because he might be God. (No, seriously.) Screenwriter Mike Reiss takes the self-depreciation audiences first found charming about Vardalos and channels it into an unfunny pathology. A man gets her in bed with “Georgia, your butt is too small.” Later, the script contorts itself to wedge in a moment where a couple insists she looks like Angelina Jolie. The one compliment I can pay Donald Petrie’s film is that the beginning is so terrible that the modest pleasures of the second half by comparison feel as optimistic about the human spirit as Zorba the Greek, which conveniently happens to play on any television within 30 feet of Georgia’s tour bus.


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