AWFJ Women On Film – “My Life In Ruins” – Susan Granger reviews

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While Nia Vardalos’s Greece triptik makes me yearn for spanakopita, moussaka and pastitsio, this cleverly titled comedic vehicle is just a pale imitation of her phenomenally appealing “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002).

A former professor of classical history at the University of Athens, Greek-American Georgia (Vardalos) fears she’s lost her ‘kefi’ (a.k.a. zest for life or ‘mojo’) as she’s outwitted by Nico (Alistair McGowan), her smarmy rival at Pangloss Tours, and doomed to escort a group of bad-mannered sightseers who want to buy souvenirs and ice cream and lounge on the beach rather than view antiquities like the Parthenon, Olympia and Delphi. (This is the first film ever to shoot at the Acropolis, a diplomatic feat accomplished because of Vardalos’ personal relationship with the minister of culture.)

Aboard for the four-day jaunt are a wry Jewish widower (Richard Dreyfuss) who sees visions of his late wife (Rita Wilson, one of the film’s producers, along with her husband Tom Hanks); dim-witted, obnoxious young Americans (SNL’s Rachel Dratch, Harland Williams); stuffy, snooty Brits (Caroline Goodall, Ian Ogilvy) with their sullen daughter (Sophie Stuckley); a kleptomaniac senior and her mute husband (Sheila Bernette, Ralph Nossek); sex-starved Spanish divorcees (Maria Botto, Maria Adanez); a workaholic IHOP sales rep (Brian Palermo); and beer-guzzling Aussies (Simon Gleeson, Natalie O’Donnell). Plus the hairy, hunky, guitar-strumming tour bus driver named Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis).

“I can’t call you that,” Georgia tells him. “What’s your last name?”

“Kakas. Poupi Kakas.” Predictably, he becomes her romantic interest after she mutters, “I haven’t had sex in forever,” not knowing he’s fluent in English.

Directed by Donald Petri (“Miss Congeniality,” “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days”) from a cliché-filled script by Mike Reiss “The Simpsons Movie”), it’s a syrupy romantic comedy best sampled after at least an ounce of ouzo and Mediterranean memories of “Zorba the Greek,” “Never on Sunday,” even “Mamma Mia!”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “My Life in Ruins” is a faltering 4, filled with cheesy feta. Let’s hope Vardalos’ upcoming “I Hate Valentine’s Day” is better.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.