My Life in Ruins (PG-13) **½


Happily ever after in Athens.

My Life in Ruins
Nia Vardalos, left, and Alexis Georgoulis are shown in a scene from, "My Life in Ruins." Photo: AP.

By Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

If you can ignore the painfully obvious stereotypes, the transparent plot and somewhat tedious life lessons, you might enjoy My Life in Ruins, a pleasant if unremarkable romantic comedy that plays out like a sitcom with great scenery. And if you don't like it, at least your mom will, a fact that cannot be underestimated in this summer of loud, explosive, little-boy adventures. The Athens Tourism Board won't be disappointed, either.

The film is directed by Donald Petrie, whose previous comedies are a mixed bag, indeed. He's responsible for the passable if not stellar How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Miss Congeniality, but also the Lindsay Lohan disaster Just My Luck and the Ray Romano nightmare Welcome to Mooseport. My Life in Ruins falls more into the former category, fortunately; it's a movie that gets better as it chugs along, depending on your patience level.

Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame finally makes it to Greece as Georgia, an unhappy travel guide who is stuck shepherding annoying tourists around Athens. She'd prefer a job teaching ancient history to baby-sitting nitwits, but leading tours pays the bills. The problem is she wants to recite every historic fact about every historic site, and her charges merely want to shop for cheap souvenirs and eat ice cream.

Naturally, the point of the film is for Georgia to rediscover her joy for life, to be able to make like Zorba and dance even when things fall apart. She accomplishes this transformation with the help of a soulful bus driver (Alexis Georgoulis), a wiseguy tourist (Richard Dreyfuss) and various cultural stereotypes who sign up for her tour (Australians who constantly drink beer; snooty Brits; Americans who only wear red, white and blue).

Vardalos looks fantastic (she told Entertainment Weekly she had broken up ``with cheese''), and she plays Georgia as a more whiny version of Toula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But by the end of the movie and despite being hampered by some truly lame gags, she makes Georgia's conversion to happiness seem genuine. There's nothing truly special about My Life in Ruins, but then, not every viewer requires depth from a movie. If you'd rather remain unchallenged, out of the range of apocalyptic explosions and star-fleet battles, free just to smile and marvel at the blue sea, Ruins is a fine way to while away a summer afternoon.

Cast: Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Rachel Dratch, Alexis Georgoulis.

Director: Donald Petrie.

Screenwriter: Mike Reiss.

Producers: Michelle Chydzik, Nathalie Marciano.

A Fox Searchlight release. Running time: 98 minutes. Sexual content. Playing at: area theaters.

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