Defiantly square and focus-group engineered to appeal to those harboring a soft spot for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," the Nia Vardalos vehicle "My Life in Ruins" doesn't do Greece or its star many favors.
Vardalos seems resigned to replicating the formula of her 2002 left-field hit and draining it dry. First, there was the seven-episode CBS sitcom "My Big Fat Greek Life." Now come back-to-back movies: "Ruins" and, next month, another date with "Wedding" costar John Corbett in "I Hate Valentine's Day."
In "Ruins," Vardalos plays Georgia, an uptight American living unhappily in Athens where she gives tours to a bunch of international rubes she deems unworthy of her efforts. Georgia has lost her "kefi," which, translated, means she has no mojo, baby.
But there's no midlife crisis that can't be cured in the arms of a hunky, hairy man -- in this case, a guitar-strumming, motorcycle-riding, daisy-proffering lover nicknamed Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis, subbing for Corbett). Georgia initially blanches at all that hair, not to mention his unfortunate name.
"I can't call you that," she tells Poupi. "What's your last name?" Kakas. That's right: Poupi Kakas.
Poupi doesn't mind people making fun of him. "So what?" he shrugs. "Laughter is good."
Laughter is good, Poupi, but it's in rather short supply here. To its credit, "Ruins" becomes less annoying as Georgia leads her ragtag band around Greece. The tour group -- composed of Ugly Americans, loud Aussies, prim Brits, sexy Spanish divorcees and a cuddly Jewish widower (Richard Dreyfuss, easily the best thing here) -- initially fulfill every ethnic stereotype in the book, which is entirely the point.
It's only when Georgia stops pigeonholing people and discovers their inner humanity that she can crack open that bottle of ouzo and drink deeply.
Or something like that. Credited to former "The Simpsons" writer Mike Reiss and directed by middle-of-the-road comedy vet Donald Petrie ("How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," "Miss Congeniality"), "My Life in Ruins" doesn't skimp on the life lessons or instant transformations. But the movie primarily exists to give amiable Everywoman Vardalos the chance to regain her kefi. On that count . . . well, there's always her "Valentine's Day" reunion with Corbett next month.
'My Life in Ruins'
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: In general release