DRIVING APHRODITE(12A, 94 mins) 4/10
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 television series My Big Fat Greek Life and the hit-and-miss drag queen comedy Connie And Carla, co-starring Toni Collette.
Driving Aphrodite 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 of the holidaymakers, whose journeys of self-discovery run parallel to Vardalos’s spunky heroine.
Reiss makes the resolutions to these stories abundantly clear, practically handing out tissues in the first 10 minutes so we’re prepared for the death of one character, who evidently flew out to the holiday islands on Grim Reaper Airways.
Greek-American tour guide Georgia (Vardalos) has grown weary of the lack of respect shown by tourists to her beautiful country.
So she hands in her notice and grits her teeth for her final tour with driver Poupi Kakas (Alexis Georgoulis), who somehow manages to keep the vehicle on the road when he isn’t making eyes at Georgia.
Sure enough, the latest group of passengers have no interest in the past and only seem to perk up when souvenirs or food are involved.
“What is it with tourists and ice cream?” Georgia wonders aloud.
Brash American traveller Irv (Richard Dreyfuss) gives the tour guide some advice about how to spice up their trip.
“History has got a lot of dirty stories. Sex sells,” he tells her.
Once Georgia starts to stray from her dry, fact-heavy spiel, her passengers begin to pay attention and they all start bonding, even a British couple (Caroline Goodall, Ian Ogilvy) and their teenage daughter Caitlin (Sophie Stuckey), who just wants one day on a beach.
Georgia is reborn, rediscovers her lust for life and wages war on slimy rival guide Nico (Alistair McGowan), who panders to his guests most base desires.
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.