Living

The title is as clever as 'Ruins' gets

The plot, premise and jokes in "My Life in Ruins" are as ancient as the Greek statues and artifacts the film beautifully highlights. And I don't mean that in a good way.

Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") plays Georgia, a Greek-American college professor who gets laid off while working in Greece and ends up being a tour guide. She's not good at it. An intellectual, she wants to lecture her tourist groups rather than engage them, and so she gets low marks from said tourists, putting her job in jeopardy and making her a target for another tour guide who's more successful. Not that Georgia wants to keep this job anyway. She's ardently looking for work at a university back in the States.

She's forlorn. Georgia, we are told in a voiceover, has lost her "kefi," the Greek word for "mojo."

Yes, I'll say it: This is the Greek version of Terry McMillan's work, basically "How Athena Gets Her Kefi Back."

And how does she? Of course, in part, it involves the right man; the one who's right in front of her whom she doesn't notice because in the movies smart women are always stupid about love. The man in this case is the tour's bus driver, Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis); he's the strong, silent type, whose beauty we're supposed to miss because he has a beard.

Also eventually aiding in Georgia's revival are her latest group of tourists, including Richard Dreyfuss as Irv, a mouthy, hammy widower, and Rachel Dratch as Kim, an anxious-to-conceive wife.

The worse thing about "My Life in Ruins" is it just isn't funny. Here's the level it's at: One of the jokes is that Poupi's last name is Kakkas. Yes, a poop joke.

The plot is built on stereotypes (Americans, crass; Canadians, nice; Greeks, happy-go-lucky). That's not necessarily unusual, but the writing doesn't do anything more than present those stereotypes over and over again.

When Dreyfuss becomes more central to the plot, the movie gets better. The film doesn't get funnier or less derivative, it's just that Dreyfuss can act and so elevates the work.

I'll admit Vardalos is likable; she's has a natural, down-to-earth charm and she isn't all fussy with her acting.

And Greece is awfully pretty.

That's not quite enough to lure me to the theater when I'm getting the same stuff on Oxygen.

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