The resounding failure of My Big Fat Greek Life, the short-lived spin-off of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Connie And Carla proved that the public’s unlikely love affair with funnywoman Nia Vardalos was more of a drunken, embarrassing, instantly regrettable one-night stand. But for a glorious moment, My Big Fat Greek Wedding made Vardalos a pop-culture Cinderella, a left-field box-office sensation, and the recipient of vast mountains of press, not to mention an Oscar nomination. Nonetheless, before long, Vardalos’ gown turned back into a heap of rags. So she, director Donald Petrie, and screenwriter Mike Reiss (who co-created The Critic with partner Al Jean, and presided over some of The Simpsons’ glory years) have gone back to the source and crapped out My Life In Ruins, a quasi-sequel to Wedding that shamelessly recycles the sitcom-and-schmaltz formula of Vardalos’ breakthrough hit.
Vardalos stars as a sexually frustrated American tour guide in Greece who has lost her zest for life and plans on quitting her shitty job, after one last jaunt through the motherland. Little does Vardalos realize that she’s been paired with The Manic Pixie Greek Tour Group, a collection of quirky, hyper-talkative, broadly stereotyped life-lovers who exist solely to reunite a mopey depressive with her long-lost mojo.
Richard Dreyfuss lapses happily into twinkly self-parody as the chief instigator of the happiness brigade, a zany man nursing a broken heart following the death of his beloved wife. Dreyfuss’ secretly soulful and wise world traveler provides the film’s big laughs during his maudlin dramatic speeches about what really matters in life. Of course, all Vardalos really needs to do is get laid. She’s a mere shtup away from spiritual satisfaction: after she hooks up with her enigmatic bus driver, her tight-lipped frown and vague air of existential ennui gives way to a permanent smile and perennial post-coital glow. Like Wedding, Ruins is almost perversely mild; Vardalos has brought back the tourist comedy and delivered the dumbed-down If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium no one wanted.