My Life in Ruins
Greek People: Finally Bad at Theater
Starring: Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss
By Robert Patrick
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was, to a plethora of moviegoers, a novelty comedy. How funny, they thought, as they rifled down a handful of butter slathered popcorn: these Greek people are wacky, use Windex as satisfactory disinfectant for a myriad of injuries, and have Joey Fatone in their family. Yes, the film came out of nowhere to steamroll audiences, rake in money, then, most unfortunately, reinforce writer and actress Nia Vardalos’ career as a semi-marketable comedienne.
Vardalos, who has laid low for a few years, relies on her lineage – yet again – for her newest film, My Life in Ruins. The Greek actress uses her heritage to boll over Americans, talk poorly of Australian accents, and make jokes about Angelina Jolie adopting too many kids. No, really, there is a tired joke about celebrity child adoption within the confines of this film.
The plot is meek and innocuous enough, giving into predictable punchlines. Vardalos plays Georgia, a Greek travel guide who is consummately pestered by goofy tourists with big hats and small amounts of social etiquette. One of guests, none other than Richard Dreyfuss, is onboard to weave mischief into Georgia’s tour of Greece. Dreyfuss’ character bobs around, pops up at inopportune times to tell tabloid jokes, then make heartfelt expositions when the plot calls for it, so that the movie has a moral center. The sentimentality runs so deep, in fact, that the saddening conversations about loss are met by sitcom resolution music.
Most recent comedies are chalked full of raunchy one-liners, verbose witticisms, and acute violence. And though I may not always enjoy the type of overindulgence that is now common place in Jason Segal excursions, I appreciate their ability to avoid jokes that involve ice cream falling on someone’s lap. My Life in Ruins, the complete antithesis of a Seth Rogan outing, is so clean that I felt like the lens of the projector was being buffed during the actual screening.
The movie’s humor relies on Georgia’s bad luck throughout her experience with a particular set of annoying tourists. The film is one note, as it calls for her to throw her hands up in despair, claw at her hair, then have some sort of slapstick situation evolve from the grief. If you’re thrilled by my description of the movie, just wait until you see a ninety-minute recurring joke about pancakes – boy, were they proud of themselves.
The supporting cast of My Life in Ruins is plagued by the likes of former SNL star Rachel Dratch and the warbling vocals of Harland Williams. Because of the atrocious script and the ridiculously unfunny line-up of comedians, Vardalos’ film does an early swan dive into my least favorite film of the year list. I felt nearly catatonic for the running time of this movie.
Dreyfuss, whose acting abilities far supersede those of the film, somehow gets stuck in the type of movie that the Hallmark Channel would play on a Sunday morning. I’m not sure what demographic would enjoy this particular brand of humor, save for older crowds who remember Richard Dreyfuss in “that one movie with graffiti”, and want to see him behave in a manner that makes him look adorable and emotionally capricious.
Director Donald Petrie, who helmed the reprehensible Welcome to Mooseport in 2003, creates another benign, forgettable comedy that would best be left unwatched by all.