Driving Aphrodite (2009)
Vardalos's Big Fat Greek Coach Trip
I have to admit I have a soft spot for Nia Vardalos, not only is she beautiful but she is also very funny so even if "Driving Aphrodite" or "My Life in Ruins" as it is also known turned out to be rubbish there would be at least one thing I enjoyed. As it turns out "Driving Aphrodite" isn't rubbish, in fact it is quite enjoyable even if it does take a bit of time to get going. And although it is seriously cliche mixing romance and comedy, it also does a reasonable job through this Greek Coach Trip of promoting the delights of Greece, by the time it rolls along to a romantically sweet ending it most certainly has delivered plenty of simple fun.
Georgia (Nia Vardalos - My Big Fat Greek Wedding) went to Greece to teach, but due to cuts was forced to become a tour guide, a job she detests because none of her tourists are ever interested in Greek history but just want to go to the beach or shop for tacky gifts. Her latest group of tourists are no exception as they are all stereotypical tourists and along with a hairy bus driver Poupi Kakas (Alexis Georgoulis), a bus with faulty air conditioning and Nico (Alistair McGowan) a slimy rival tour guide this latest tour is the tour from hell. But when Georgia finds a friend in Irv (Richard Dreyfuss - Always), one of the tourists, things start to turn around especially as she discovers that someone on the tour has feelings for her.
I will admit during the first 10 minutes of "Driving Aphrodite" I really wasn't sure whether I was going to enjoy what was coming and when we are introduced to an over the top Alistair McGowan as Nico a slimy Greek tour guide I was cringing thinking this is just wrong on so many levels. And to be honest that is only one of the issues which makes "Driving Aphrodite" a rather uneasy movie to start with especially as the majority of the early humour is aimed at poking fun at the stereotypes who go on these coach trip tours. It's just a bit too forced and painful as Australian, American, Spanish and British stereotypes are introduced and poked fun off even if there is some slither of truth to the humour.
Thankfully get past what is a bit of a painful opening and "Driving Aphrodite" does get going and does become good as we journey on the coach trip from hell. So I am not going to say that it is that original as along the way we go from Georgia hating her job, hating her passengers and boring them senseless to someone who finds love, enjoys what she does and makes a difference to them all but it is good fun. It is very much a movie of some good set pieces such as the bedroom scene when Georgia discovers who she has feelings for, and it's easy to see who it will be from within the first 10 minutes. And when it is not delivering set piece gags, many of which work thanks to Richard Dreyfuss on fine form as Irv, we do get to see some wonderful Greek tourist attractions. Like "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Roman Holiday", "Driving Aphrodite" is very much a movie which is great for promoting a country and by the time it had finished I had fallen in love with the picture of Greece it painted.
Whilst "Driving Aphrodite" does end up entertaining it's not all good and in the final part there is something which happens to an important character which whilst different is almost too surreal for what is a simple comedy. It also doesn't help that every time a scene features Alistair McGowan as Nico it became painful because whilst McGowan is funny as an impressionist his over the top delivery of a slimy Greek tour guide is just wrong and I am sure it was meant to be in an ironic way but not as wrong as it ends up.
Aside from Alistair McGowan as Nico, "Driving Aphrodite" very much belongs to Nia Vardalos and Richard Dreyfuss despite featuring entertaining performances from Alexis Georgoulis, Harland Williams and Ian Ogilvy to name but a few from a long list of supporting performances. It has to be said that Vardalos looks stunning throughout the movie, maybe a little too stunning for a bored tour guide, but it makes her captivating and when she delivers various funny lines it is just brilliant. Many of those best funny lines come when she shares a scene with Richard Dreyfuss who is equally as good as the wise old and mischievous Irv. Without Vardalos and Dreyfuss "Driving Aphrodite" could have quite possibly struggled to be any good as it is built around cliches and stereotypes.
What this all boils down to is that "Driving Aphrodite" is a fun and entertaining movie which may not be that original with it's story of romance and comedy but it is entertaining. Why it is entertaining is mainly down to Nia Vardalos and Richard Dreyfuss working so well together. But it is not just romantic and funny as by the time it finishes it has delivered so many picturesque views of Greece that you have fallen in love with the country.
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