“My Life in Ruins” is an adequate way to kill 95 minutes, especially for a romantic comedy as harmless as this one. You can’t expect much from a film that doesn’t aim very high, but the advantage here is that the material is usually on target, which won’t be a problem if this kind of stuff is your cup of tea.
You shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit that you like it, either – even though there are plenty of moments here that are pretty silly, there’s enough heart in this film to make up for the brain that’s missing.
It seems appropriate that Nia Vardalos would appear in this movie, if only because of the success she has had with comedies like this. Remember that her screenplay for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” earned her an Academy Award nomination, and that she got a second nomination at the Golden Globes for playing a bride whose family needs some time to warm up to the groom. Once you write and star in a film that becomes an unlikely hit, trying to make lightning strike twice might be the next logical step, but even if she doesn’t hit pay dirt with “My Life in Ruins,” it seems like a sure thing that Vardalos has more comedies left in her.
In this one, she’s a tour guide in Athens whose name is Georgia. Although she makes a decent living, she doesn’t like her job much – she wanted to be a professor at Athens University instead. Even though she still gets to talk about Greek history, most of the tourists she gets stuck with aren’t in the mood for a lecture.
On top of everything, she also has to deal with her boss (Bernice Stegers), who repeatedly tells her that she’s lousy at her job. She says that Georgia should try to be more like Nico (Alistair McGowan), who gives his tour groups ice cream and air-conditioned bus rides. Georgia’s bus, on the other hand, is driven by a guy named Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis), who puts up with lots of kidding on account of his name.
Also onboard is a bunch of tourists from all over the world, which are the kind of people that Georgia says she gets all the time: Irv (Richard Dreyfuss) tells lots of jokes that sometimes contain bits of wisdom; Big Al (Harland Williams) and Kim (Rachel Dratch) are obnoxious Americans who can’t get over the fact that there are people in Greece who don’t speak English; Dr. Tullen (Caroline Goodall) drags her husband (Ian Ogilvy) and daughter (Sophie Stuckey) all the way from Britain, only to have them complain behind her back to whoever will listen; Lala (María Botto) and Lena (María Adánez) are best friends from Spain who each want to find a man; Ken (Simon Gleeson) and Sue (Natalie O’Donnell) are boozehounds with heavy Australian accents.
Although we’ve seen characters like these in plenty of other movies, getting to know them again is more fun than you’d think. The cast does its part to turn clichés into human beings, and even though they push Georgia’s patience to its knife edge, she eventually caves in and winds up having a good time with them. That it would only take a few days for her to turn her life around is another Hollywood cliché altogether, one that might’ve been an obstacle in a better movie. In this one, it’s merely the final piece of the puzzle.