My Life in Ruins (Blu-ray)
Directed by Donald Petrie
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 95 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Review Date: October 16, 2009
Successful romantic comedies need brilliant casting with leads that have true chemistry, witty banter, effervescent direction, and that indescribable something (call it charm possibly) that make them truly work. My Life in Ruins has beautiful Greek locations. In every other respect, it’s a movie lacking in those prime ingredients, and the result is banal, a flat-footed romance with predictable characters albeit with a decent laugh or two and a moment or two where magic is at work. Too bad it couldn’t be sustained for more than a few minutes.
Laid off ancient history professor Georgia (Nia Vardalos) finds employment as a tour guide in Greece taking her groups through the stately ruins at Delphi, Olympia, and Athens. Though steeped in the history and legends of the ruins, Georgia’s tours are dull for her groups, constantly earning her the lowest possible evaluations. Making up her mind that this will be the last tour before returning to America, Georgia gets her worst group yet, filled with boorish types who insult her lectures, shoplift with abandon, complain about the un-air conditioned tour bus, and generally grouse whenever she wants to waste their time with the ruins instead of allowing them to shop for collectable junk, buy endless ice creams, or eat junk food. Even the substitute bus driver (Alexis Georgoulis) freaks her out with his Bigfoot appearance and a reluctance to talk to her. Through the efforts of a well meaning widower (Richard Dreyfuss), Georgia is shown how she can provide fun for her group as well as inflicting some culture upon them.
Could Mike Reiss’ script have included any more possible disagreeable stereotypes: from the surly British teen who won’t take out her earbuds to the divorcees who say they’ve sworn off men and then take every opportunity to sample the willing natives? There are the usual insensitive Americans (are there any other kind in these types of travel movies), and was anyone surprised when the hairy bus driver shaved off his beard and turned into superhunk before everyone’s eyes? Director Donald Petrie has staged one rather lyrical moment: at Delphi, the group approaches the Oracle at Delphi and one by one asks questions which begin to humanize these louts. Certainly, it was no great revelation to find that the oafish tourists were all sweet, special people, but that one moment in the movie is handled with the light touch and ingenuity that is lacking through most of the rest of the film.
Nia Vardalos may have made a huge splash some years ago with her acting and writing of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but here, slimmed down and glammed up, she’s a rather unappealing leading lady unattractively holding her mouth open for much of the first half of the movie and lacking the bubbly charm and zest that a Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, or Anne Hathaway might have brought to the part. And she shares no onscreen chemistry with romantic partner Alexis Georgoulis. He’s big and burly and with the right co-star might have made more of an impression. Opposite Vardalos, he strikes no sparks and makes little impression apart from the visual. Richard Dreyfuss seems a bit pushy and obvious as the problem solver/matchmaker character (though he’s likely meant to be the most appealing character in the film), but more enjoyable are the improvisations of Brian Palermo as IHOP executive Marc. His ruminations on the ecstasies of syrup are one of the real highlights of the movie.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical ratio is replicated in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is very strong in this transfer, and flesh tones are both natural and appealing. Sharpness is usually quite strong, and the Greek ruins have never looked more splendid, but some of the interior shots of the bus find contrast cranked down, grain increased, and a much flatter and less impressive image on the screen. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is predictably frontcentric with only a very spare use of the surrounds for a few ambient sounds and almost nothing for the LFE channel to do. The David Newman music score is spread well across the fronts but rarely finds its way throughout the rest of the soundfield.
There are three audio commentaries, something of a mixed blessing since none of the participants – star Nia Vardalos, director Donald Petrie, and writer Mike Reiss – have anything particularly revealing to talk about. Of the three, Reiss’ track is the chattiest, Petrie’s gives the most behind-the-scenes information, and Vardalos’ is the most silent with long pauses between comments. Ideally, the three tracks could and should have been edited into a much more involving single commentary track for the film.
There are seven deleted scenes and an alternate ending which can be watched separately or in one 12 ½ minute grouping. The viewer may also turn on director commentary for the scenes or leave it off. They’re presented in 480i.
“Everybody Loves Poupi” finds director Donald Petrie reediting pieces of the film so it appears that the entire cast is making goo-goo eyes at co-star/hunk Alexis Georgoulis (who plays Poupi in the film) and he’s responding in kind to their overtures. This bit of silliness runs 3 ½ minutes and is in 480i. The director's introduction can be played at the beginning of the featurette or not.
The disc offers trailers in 1080p for I Love You, Beth Cooper, Post Grad, and (500) Days of Summer.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Innocuously written and directed, My Life in Ruins is predictable, slight, but not without some minor pleasures. The gorgeous Greek locations and some fairly good character bits from the supporting cast might make this a decent date night rental if one’s expectations remain relatively low.