Dir: Udayan Prasad. UK. 2005.97mins.

Make no mistake, UdayanPrasad, director of such smart racial explorations as Brothers In Trouble or My SonThe Fanatic, seems to have taken a leave of absence with Opa!, a featherweight romp set in the Greek islands that squeezesthe life out of every Mediterranean recipe in the book.

We're in Greece once more, that paradise on earth (with its mythicalsatyrs and nymphs here re-imagined as modern islanders) again invaded by Westernerswho have come to plough up its land, steal its antiquities and disturb itsdivine peace.

It's a formula that has beendone countless times before - from Paul Mazursky'sversion of The Tempest to Mediterraneo and Shirley Valentine - not to mention Greekcinema's own contributions. But rarely has there been such an accumulation of cliches bunched up together in one example of the genre.

The plot concerns anAmerican professor whom comes to Patmos to look for St John's Cup - and scientifically establishes that to find ithe has to dig exactly under a taverna owned by themost attractive woman in the village. So what is more important' Love in theGarden of Eden - or glory in the vain, arid fields of the archaeologyacademics'

By the time this conflict issettled, one wavers between astonishment at seeing films such as Opa! still beingmade and the suspicion that, with a bit of luck, Opa! may even enjoy a respectable commercialcareer. Certainly the island of Patmos, where the film was shot, now has the bestcommercial it could ever hope for.

Eric (Matthew Modine) is an archaeologist who doesn't have to dig inorder to know what's underground, for his laptop converses directly with thenearest satellite, providing him with every bit of information he needs.

He comes to Patmos because that's where his father, also an archaeologist,had hoped to find St John's Cup - butnever did. Eric is certain of its location, but is slightly thrown when he meetsKaterina (Agni Scott), alively widow with a 10-year-old daughter, who rides her bike all over theisland, her skirts flying high up in the air. She owns the best taverna in town, assisted by Spyros(Alki David) who has always been in love with her buthas accepted his defeat and role as substitute brother.

To find the cup, Eric has totear down Katerina's establishment, a difficult thingto ask for after skinny-dipping with her on a gorgeously secluded beach.Therefore it falls to the smooth-talking mayor (ChristosValavanidis), in charge of all the paperworkincluding Katerina's eviction order.

Professor Tierney (RichardGriffiths), a portly British scientist who has been on the island for years andexpects to go on living there for the rest of his days, looks disapprovingly atproceedings from a distance but does not interfere. He does not have to - forlove does not need anyone's assistance in this kind of film.

So what do we have here' Sun, sea and sand in abundance. Greatlandscapes. Greek music, folk dancing, lots of ouzo and fiery temperaments.Then there is the heroine who does not mind taking the initiative when the manis shy, a smart granny, and even a Greek chorus (or,who knows, maybe Macbeth's witches). It's rounded off by three old women inblack who start by commenting on Katerina's moralsand are soon quoting Robert Browning.

There is also love at firstsight, for the moment Katerina lays her eyes on Eric shealready knows he is the man for her. To spice it all up a bit, a touch ofpolitical corruption is thrown into the mix with a blundering Oklahoman who hasbeen flown in to take the taverna apart and hasplenty of fancy suggestions on the best way to do it.

Put it all together and onpaper at least it may look like a rich Greek salad - but even a salad needsfresh product to give it taste - and this is what Opa! lacks.

Modine's boyish charm of days gone by is a bit faded now andhe needs to grow into roles that are more attuned to his age. Agni Scott is all smiles and tantrums, which is about allthe role requires of her, while Richard Griffiths sails around the sets playingthe older statesman with the adequate aplomb and affected accent of a Britabroad.

It is all buoyed up by aGreek-inspired soundtrack and attractive shots of the scenery taken from themost advantageous angles.

Production company
Cinema Seven Productions
Magrytte Films International

International sales
Bristol Media International

Executive producer
George Pappas

Thierry Cagianut

Raman Singh
Christina Concetta

Haris Zambarloukos

Barrie Vince

Production design
Dimitris Ziakis

Stephen Warbeck

Main cast
Mathew Modine
Agni Scott
Richard Griffiths
Alki David
Christos Valavanidis
Panayota Aravantzi