Fox // 2009 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // November 16th, 2009
The star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding is back!
Nia Vardalos set the world on fire when she wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was an unusually good ethnic comedy, full of quirky and stereotypical but lovable characters. This begs the question: how on earth did she manage to end up in this dud?
Georgia (Vardalos) is an American tour guide in Greece. She doesn't really want to be a tour guide -- she wants to be a classics professor -- but it pays the bills. Unfortunately, her lack of enthusiasm for the job isn't very well hidden, which nets her the lousy tour groups. This particular group is full of the kinds of losers she hates, and she's stuck with a seemingly horrible new driver named -- for real -- Poupi Kakas (Alexis Georgoulis, Oxygono). The worst tourist this time around is Irv (Richard "I was in Jaws" Dreyfuss). Will Georgia snap? Will she unexpectedly fall in love with Poupi? Will there be jokes about dumb Americans? Read on!
The key to a good romantic comedy -- and it's certainly become well-established by now -- is likable characters. Vardalos makes a monumental error in playing her own character in My Life in Ruins as an unlikable, miserable woman. She approaches her job irresponsibly, she is selfish and shortsighted, and she is cruel to the people around her. We don't really want her to find love. We can imagine how horrible it would be to get stuck on a tour with this woman. Of course, it would also be horrible to be stuck on a tour bus with the rest of this group. Each one represents a different racial stereotype. There are the goofy Australians, the snotty Brits, the inane Americans, and the slutty Spanish divorcees.
Of course, there is one massively gaping hole in this formula. Not only is there not a single Japanese tourist on the bus, there isn't a single one in the entire film. As long as a script is going to run along obvious racial jokes, this seems like a strange omission.
There are some funny parts, especially in the first half. The kleptomaniac old woman is a riot, and the plot twist surrounding one of the characters is quite different from what I expected. The biggest problem is that all of the characters are far too stupid. Georgia is supposed to be intelligent to a fault, yet she is so nearsighted about other people that it's hard to buy. Only one of the other characters on the bus ever really evolves past the stereotype that we see in the first five minutes. There's a horrifying moment about midway through the film where Georgia says something so insensitive to Irv that we can't imagine anyone forgiving her, and the movie falls apart from there. After that, nothing happens to salvage the horrifying misstep.
The disc is reasonably well-mastered, especially during bright outdoor sequences. It's a long way from reference quality, but it does showcase the Greek scenery nicely. The sound is delivered in a DTS-MA track, but it's hardly necessary. It's just the usual mix of dialogue and light music. It's probably preferable to the DVD, but it might not be worth the extra money. In terms of extra features, we get a few deleted scenes as well as a commentary track by Vardalos. It's one of those awkwardly self-congratulatory commentaries, where she doesn't seem to realize that she's made a lousy film.
A great vacation can be a wonderful thing, and a terrible vacation can be worse than just going to work. I guess romantic comedies are the same, and I wouldn't recommend My Life in Ruins one to anyone. It has some of the pieces of a successful film, but ignores all the things that made My Big Fat Greek Wedding a breakaway hit. Don't go on this trip -- just stay at home.
Guilty. This is a tour you don't want to go on.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site