ORIGINALLY titled My Life In Ruins, Donald Petrie’s bumbling romantic comedy marks the long- awaited return of Nia Vardalos to the big screen, seven years after her self-penned, Oscar-nominated smash My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
In the interim, she wrote and starred in the ill-fated, spin-off TV series My Big Fat Greek Life and the hit-and-miss drag queen comedy Connie And Carla, co-starring Toni Collette.
This returns Vardalos to her beloved Greece in the guise of an unhappily single tour guide, who is oblivious to Mr Right sitting at the front of her malfunctioning bus.
For the first time, she doesn’t speak her own words, relying on a screenplay by Mike Reiss, whose credits on The Simpsons and The Garry Shandling Show should guarantee big laughs.
For the first half hour, you’ll be hard-pressed to muster a smile as the film hastily introduces all the holidaymakers, whose journeys of self-discovery run parallel to Vardalos’s spunky heroine and the resolutions to which are soon abundantly clear.
When Vardalos’s Georgia hands in her notice and grits her teeth for her final tour, she again finds the passengers have no real interest in her country’s past.
When brash American traveller Irv (Richard Dreyfuss) gives her advice about how to spice up their trip, she starts to stray from her fact-heavy spiel, passengers pay attention and they all start bonding.
Driver Poupi Kakas (Georgoulis), meanwhile, somehow manages to keep the vehicle on the road while making eyes at Georgia.
Georgia is reborn, rediscovers her lust for life and wages war on a slimy rival guide.
Driving Aphrodite trots out cringe-worthy gags that would be rejected from a second-rate TV sitcom.
Dreyfuss can play his soothsayer role in his sleep, while Georgoulis metamorphoses into a hunky paramour after a much-needed wash and shave.
Vardalos looks slimmer, sexier and more glamorous now, which makes a mockery of her character’s inability to attract a man.
She injects life into the film’s jauntier second half but half of the audience will have given up by then.