My Life in Ruins (2009)

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Nia Vardalos, the star of the wildly popular My Big Fat Greek Wedding, stars in this fun comedy that features a scene stealing performance by Richard Dreyfuss with a great story involving a woman who learns to open up after going through failure after failure.

Georgia is a Greek-American woman in Greece in hopes to find work at Athens University. However, due to cutbacks, she is forced to work as a tour guide to make ends meet. Needless to say, she hates her job and always gets the motley bunch while rival Nico gets the good group. She also learns that the driver for her latest tour is a Grizzly Adams lookalike named Procopi, who goes by his nickname “Poupi” and his last name is Kakas (Get it?).

The tour group consists of people who look like they could be in line for a remake of Police Academy. By that, I mean the types of characters, not the actors themselves. They include an Australian couple who live to drink, two sex-starved yet sick of men Spanish divorcees, an obnoxious American couple, a bickering British couple with a daughter who never smiles, a businessman who is constantly on his cell phone, a backpacking American college student, and an elderly couple.

However, the highlight of the film and the big scene stealer is Irv, an elderly man who loves to make wisecracks at anything and anyone. There is more to Irv than what it seems and he soon becomes Georgia’s true confidant and helps her with making drastic changes to her life. As the group travels towards Greece and somewhat learn, not only Georgia, but everyone involved in this trip, go through many drastic changes. There is even a hint of romance between Georgia and Poupi, who himself changes at first by looking more non-Grizzly Adams.

There is a subplot that involves the rivalry between Georgia and Nico. Their supervisor, Maria knows that Georgia doesn’t like her job much and when Nico offers to make Georgia quit for a raise, Maria agrees. Some of the movie is spent with Nico doing to anything to make Georgia more miserable, from mocking her group to making Gator (said American collegian) wear a shirt with Greek letters saying something rather towards a love for men but in a more risqué fashion.

Making his American debut, Greek actor Alexis Gergoulis looks like Ringo Starr meeting Dan Haggerty in the beginning. However, as time progresses, he changes and soon becomes Georgia’s love interest. He helps Georgia “open up” and helps with some of the comic relief of the film. Yet, along with Irv, he provides about talking why he doesn’t plan life and it helps inspire Georgia to be freer. Plus, that character name is something that is going to be the only thing this movie may be known for aside from Nia Vardalos. Where else are you going to find a movie with a guy named “Poupi Kakas”?

Richard Dreyfuss, as Irv, is just great to watch. He provides most of the comic relief as Georgia tries to be funny, but since her character isn’t supposed to be funny at first, all of the comedy is practically left to Irv. Irv churns out some pretty funny stuff at first, but then, he becomes more subtle with a little bit of funny. It is Irv who is the true inspiration for the group changing their ways and becoming more open and enjoy themselves, especially both Georgia and the bickering British couple.

Like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the film was executive produced by Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, who makes a cameo as Irv’s departed wife. While Vardalos didn’t write the screenplay this time around, she must have had a hand in the story as it shows a bit of a comical yet nice representation of Greece…for the most part. Furthermore, look for a funny cameo by Vardalos’ husband, Ian Gomez, as a crazy Greek hotel clerk.

If you liked My Big Fat Greek Wedding, chances are you will like My Life in Ruins. It’s not as good as the breakout film, but it’s still a fun film to check out.

WFG RATING: B

Fox Searchlight Pictures present a 26 Films production in association with Kanzaman Productions. Director: Donald Petrie. Producers: Michelle Chydzik Sowa and Nathalie Marciano. Writer: Mike Reiss. Cinematography: José Luis Alcaine. Editing: Patrick J. Don Vito.

Cast: Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Alexis Gergoulis, Alistair McGowan, Harland Williams, Rachel Dratch, Caroline Goodall, Ian Ogilvy, Sophie Stuckey, María Botto, María Adánez, Brian Palermo, Jareb Dauplaise, Simon Gleeson, Natalie O’Donnell, Sheila Bernette, Ralph Nossek, Bernice Stegers, Ian Gomez.

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