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Tired characters, gags hurt ‘Life in Ruins’

The adorable Nia Vardalos makes an obvious choice for “My Life in Ruins,” a movie she hopes will recapture a bit of her “Big Fat Greek Wedding” mojo from 2002.

This wan romantic comedy built around a lovelorn tour guide, the annoying people she works for and the annoying tourists she takes around Greece plays like a laugh-starved companion piece. From the title to Nia’s lovelorn narration, this tale of a laid-off American classics professor making her living leading tours through the ruins and glories of Greece is “Big Fat Greek II.”

The laughs are obvious, too, such as the tourist “types.” There’s the tipsy Australians, the obnoxious Americans, the given-up-on-men-but- still-looking” divorcees and “the funny guy.” Richard Dreyfuss is the obvious choice for the latter, obviously named “Irv.”

Georgia the tour guide suffers them all, hoping against hope that her lectures will get through to these short-attention-span nitwits and that they learn something about Olympia, the Parthenon and Delphi. But no, they’d rather shop and hunt for ice cream.

Georgia’s problem, all the native Greeks in her office tell her, is that she has no “kefi” – no passion, no joy of life. That’s why the boss wants to can her and the kiss-up tour guide Nico (Alistair McGowan) is trying to get her fired.

Vardalos is a winning presence, and if you’ve got to hire an old guy to pass on the gift of humor and lessons about love, you could do worse than Dreyfuss. Director Donald Petrie (“Grumpy Old Men”) finds the odd sweet moment and obvious laugh as well as anybody.

There just aren’t many here. The bit players are dull, and the gags are played out.

Vardalos will never go broke playing it Greek and playing it safe for her fans. But that’s no way for an actress to find her kefi.

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