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.