Starring: Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Alexis Georgoulis
Directed by: Donald Petrie (“Welcome to Mooseport”)
Written by: Mike Reiss (“The Simpsons Movie”)
There’s absolutely no “kefi” to be found anywhere in the entire country of Greece when actress Nia Vardalos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) takes us to her mother land in the new film “My Life in Ruins.”
Kefi, of course, is the Greek term used by Vardalos’s character Georgia to describe what Greeks call mojo or passion for life. As a disrespected tour guide, Georgia is lacking in both life and love. While she enjoys the part of her job that allows her to teach classic history, the group she is leading in “Ruins” is a pack of lame tourists who would rather shop for souvenirs and eat ice cream than learn about the birthplace of civilization.
Along for the torturous trek though Athens are annoying Americans (played here by Rachel Dratch and Harland Williams), snobby English, voluptuous Spanish divorcees, and a number of other unfunny stereotypical characters screenwriter Mike Reiss can conjure up so they can drag their feet through the entire movie. Even Richard Dreyfuss as an obnoxious widower with a heart of gold can’t remedy the direction of Donald Petrie whose other major bombs include “Welcome to Mooseport” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”
Vardalos, who would love to be the Greek version of Tina Fey, still has her winning smile, but there’s only so much she can do with her own character. As her love interest, actor Alexis Georgoulis plays her hairy tour bus driver named Poupi Kakas, which becomes an ongoing and asinine joke in itself.
Unlike with her surprise sleeper hit “Greek Wedding,” for which she earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, the Vardalos’s voice isn’t noticeable in “Ruins.” Where some of the stereotypes in “Wedding” were sweet and sincere, Reiss tosses them out shamelessly. While he does this, he tries to squeeze in a morale about living life to the fullest that feels artificial and flat.