My Life in Ruins Is Nia Vardalos' Strangely Self-Loathing Anti-Comeback

Substitute "career" for "life" in the title of this stillborn travelogue comedy, and you'll have a succinct verdict on My Big Fat Greek Wedding writer/star Nia Vardalos, whose efforts to prove herself more than a one-megahit wonder have been greeted by audiences with an apathy previously reserved for the post–Crocodile Dundee oeuvre of Paul Hogan (see the short-lived 2003 sitcom My Big Fat Greek Life and the even shorter-lived 2004 drag-queen farce Connie and Carla). Here, in the opening salvo of her double-barreled 2009 comeback bid—the Vardalos-scripted and -directed I Hate Valentine's Day is set to follow in July—the Greek-Canadian comedienne once more tries to parlay her Hellenic pride into box-office gold, starring as an unemployed history professor reduced to working as an Athenian tour guide. The result, written by The Simpsons alum Mike Reiss and directed (in a manner of speaking) by Grumpy Old Men's Donald Petrie, is a strangely self-loathing affair that paints Vardalos's tour group as a uniformly ill-mannered, culturally illiterate bunch, while rendering Greece itself as a badly plumbed third-world hellhole run by lazy, Zorba-dancing louts. The requisite ugly Americans are here, as well as the beer-guzzling Aussies and one wizened, Viagra-popping widower (Richard Dreyfuss, really slumming it). But then, what did you expect from a movie with characters named Poupi and Doudi Kakas?

 
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