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The Independent Critic

Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Harland Williams, Rita Wilson
Donald Petrie
Mike Reiss
Rated PG-13
98 Mins.
20th Century Fox

 "My Life in Ruins" Review 

Sometimes, all a movie has to do is make you smile.

Sometimes, nothing else matters.

Special effects? Sure, they have their place. But, sometimes, you want to leave a theatre and feel like you've spent the better part of two hours becoming a part of someone else's life.

Oscar calibre acting? Sure, it's awesome to experience. But, sometimes, don't you really just crave an actor who can elicit laughs, lift your spirits and make you leave the theatre feeling better than when you walked in?

A brilliant story? Awesome, sure. Let's be honest, though, sometimes it's nice to sit back in the movie theatre and just forget about life for awhile with a simple story and good ole' fashioned characters who feel so comfortable that you can picture yourself going out for coffee with them after the movie.

"My Life in Ruins," the latest film starring Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding"), won't be around come awards season.

"My Life in Ruins" has nary a special effect nor an award-winning performance. The storyline in "My Life in Ruins" is simple and, you guessed it, the dialogue leans toward predictable.

Simply put..."My Life in Ruins" will make you smile.

In "My Life in Ruins," Vardalos is Georgia, a laid off college history professor reduced to working as an Athens tour guide for what amounts to your stereotypical tourists- a clueless college student, the drunken Aussies, the snobbish Brits, the hot and horny single Spaniards and, of course, the not so funny funny guy that every tour always seems to have.

Of course, we quickly learn that Georgia's tours aren't really that popular when compared to her fellow tour guide Nico (Alistair McGowan). Rather than being relaxed and fun, Georgia's tours are educational and, well, boring.

Will it be different this time?


Georgia is guided through finding kefi, the Greek version of Austin Powers' mojo, by Irv (Richard Dreyfuss), a lonely and grieving widow who uses humor to survive but whose sage advice gradually begins to create a bond between this motley crew of tourists. Kefi in tact, Georgia begins to warm up to her hottie bus driver Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis).

You do see where this is going, don't you?

Of course you do. Who cares?

Despite the film's utter predictability and familiarity, "My Life in Ruins" works on the strength of Vardalos' winning performance and, on the flip side, a heartfelt and emotionally resonant performance from Richard Dreyfuss.

Where Director Donald Petrie falls a bit short is in his over-abundance of camera shots focusing on Vardalos' admittedly winning smile and in the nearly postcard way in which he photographs the mesmerizingly beautiful Greece.  While the Greek scenery is awesome to behold, the film occasionally feels more like a photographic essay of Greece rather than having the scenery be an integral part of the story as it was in, say, the similarly beautiful "Under the Tuscan Sun." Petrie also drops the ball in relation to Irv, providing little closure for a character who has become central to virtually every aspect of the film.

Despite these cinematic quirks, "My Life in Ruins" feels like the kind of film Nia Vardalos should make, perhaps equal parts "Big Fat" sequel and simply a return to her gift for light, romantic comedy. While the film is much less obsessed with the quirks of Greek culture, save for their penchant for dancing and Anthony Quinn, "My Life in Ruins" retains that good-hearted, innocent and life-affirming spirit from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and wraps it into a film that is light, gentle, honest and authentically funny.

Sometimes, a movie only has to make you smile.

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding," in many ways, was such a film.

Simple and sweet with solid performances from Vardalos, Dreyfuss and the rest of the film's supporting cast, "My Life in Ruins" won't change your life and won't blow you away.

"My Life in Ruins" will simply make you smile.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic