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The Films of Donald Petrie

Mystic Pizza

Opportunity Knocks

Grumpy Old Men

The Favor

Ri¢hie Ri¢h

The Associate

My Favorite Martian

Miss Congeniality

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Welcome to Mooseport

Just My Luck

My Life in Ruins (June 2/09)

Though armed with a number of charismatic performances, My Life in Ruins primarily comes off as a hopelessly corny romantic comedy that boasts a myriad of jokes and gags that wouldn't pass muster on the hackiest of sitcoms. The movie casts Nia Vardalos as Georgia, an American living and working in Greece as a tour guide who impulsively decides to move back home following one last jaunt around the picturesque countryside. Georgia's latest batch of clients - including Richard Dreyfuss' scrappy Irv, Harland Williams' obnoxious Big Al, and Caroline Goodall's stuffy Dr. Tullen - inevitably force the homesick single gal to reevaluate her decision, as they slowly-but-surely teach her a series of life lessons that lead directly into a burgeoning relationship with hunky bus driver Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis). It's a familiar premise that's initially employed to entirely underwhelming effect by filmmaker Donald Petrie, as the director - working from Mike Reiss' screenplay - places a consistent emphasis on eye-rollingly unsubtle elements that are exacerbated by the presence of characters that are almost uniformly one note. It subsequently goes without saying that the talented cast - Dreyfuss is all but retired and this is what he chooses to do? - is generally left floundering amid a sea of exasperating clichés and stereotypes, yet there's little doubt that the increasingly affable atmosphere does ensure that the movie improves ever-so-slightly slightly as it progresses. The almost comically upbeat nature of My Life in Ruins' conclusion - virtually every character receives their own personal happy ending - leaves the viewer almost willing to forgive the ineffectiveness of that which preceded it, although it'd surely take a lot more than a pleasant finale to erase the memory of the film's aggressively unwatchable opening hour.

out of

Little Italy (August 13/18)

An often excruciatingly irrelevant piece of work, Little Italy details the intense rivalry between two side-by-side pizza joints in Toronto - with the movie following the grown-up children of both sides (Hayden Christensen's Leo Campo and Emma Roberts' Nikki Angioli) as they find themselves falling for one another. Filmmaker Donald Petrie, working from a script by Steve Galluccio and Vinay Virmani, delivers a sluggish narrative that traffics heavily in tired, unfunny stereotypes, as virtually every element within the proceedings is dripping with eye-rollingly hoary conventions that grow more and more aggravating as time progresses - with, especially, the admittedly talented supporting cast (which includes Alyssa Milano, Andrea Martin, and Danny Aiello) trapped within the confines of unreasonably over-the-top and one-dimensional cliches. (It's worth noting, as well, that the movie's two Indian characters are painted with just as offensively broad a brush as their Italian costars.) And although Christensen and Roberts are relatively charming within their respective roles, Little Italy's almost total dearth of positive attributes effectively negates its few affable elements - with the hopelessly uninvolving atmosphere compounded by a continuing emphasis on some of the worst and most hackneyed jokes one could imagine (eg a flirty cop pats down/sexually assaults Christensen's confused character). The endless 104 minute running time ensures that the picture runs out of steam long before it arrives at its ludicrous race-to-the-airport, feel-good conclusion (ie it hasn't even remotely earned this, not even a little bit), and it is, in the end, impossible not to wonder to which demographic Little Italy has been designed to appeal (ie seemingly young teenagers, no doubt, yet the script is rife with R-rated bits of sexual innuendo).

out of

© David Nusair