Nia Vardalos is the new Yakov Smirnoff. Her entire act revolves around her European heritage -- she's Greek, while Smirnoff's a Russkie. Without it, she's just another unemployable actress with a limited range. (See Connie and Carla, Vardalos' flat follow-up to her breakout hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.)
Her latest pseudo-comedy, My Life in Ruins, demonstrates that the tired Greek gags have taken her about as far as she's ever going to go. Even the characters in Vardalos' pictures are begging her to quit. "You're not funny. Stop trying," a manager tells self-absorbed tour guide Georgia (Vardalos) as she prepares to take a busload of imbecilic vacationers on a four-day Grecian jaunt. Article continues below
Ruins treats Georgia's tour bus as a melting pot, allowing scripter Mike Reiss to paint broad, obnoxious cultural generalities about boorish Americans (embarrassingly awful Rachel Dratch and Harland Williams), snooty Brits (Caroline Goodall and Ian Ogilvy), Foster's-swigging Australians (Simon Gleeson and Natalie O'Donnell), and a hunky Greek driver sophisticatedly nicknamed Poupi Kakas (Alexis Georgoulis). Later, we meet Poupi's nephew, Doudi Kakas (Nacho Pérez). How ironic. A turd of a comedy making infantile poop jokes.
Reiss spent time writing for intelligent television programs like The Larry Sanders Show and The Simpsons. Where is that wit? His Ruins belittles ignorant idiots who prefer souvenir shopping to Parthenon tours, then panders to the very same mouth-breathers with a moronic screenplay. Donald Petrie (Mystic Pizza) poorly shoots Reiss' atrocious script, hammering us over the head with obvious culture-focused punch lines. Richard Dreyfuss emerges as the film's lone bright spot, a wisecracking widower who teaches Georgia how to lighten up and live her life. It's not enough to make Ruins tolerable, mind you, but the actor deserves credit for his work.
As for Petrie, he hints at his inspiration for Ruins when, on separate instances, he shows a television tuned into Mihalis Kakogiannis' infectious Alexis Zorbas (or Zorba the Greek), with Anthony Quinn. All it does is call attention to a better film. Do yourself a favor: Rent that instead.