Starring Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Dev Patel
In the eight months since the previous outing, things have been running smoothly for the staff and guests at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. In fact it has been going so well that proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) seeks to expand to a second site. To do this he will not only need the help of his manager (Muriel – Maggie Smith), but investors, all while dealing with the stress of his upcoming nuptials. Meanwhile the other permanent guests (the returning Dench, Nighy, Imrie and Pickup) find also themselves at a crossroad in their relationships. All effecting the harmony of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
As expected, sequelitis sets in quite early on in this follow up to the surprise 2011 hit. With so many returning characters, and one or two new ones thrown into the mix, it is a case of having too much on the boil at one time. As such many of the characters get short shrift, either by having ridiculous plot lines or an arc that has not risen organically out of the conclusion of the first movie. Ultimately little of this really matters, as problems will be solved at the eleventh hour with much hand-waving, or just disappear entirely. Not much of consequence seems to eventuate, and rather surprisingly… that really doesn’t matter.
Something about the enormous reservoirs of charm held by the cast and the exotic setting make you forgive the slight plot. Perhaps the best way to describe The Second Best Marigold Hotel is exactly that; charming, but inconsequential. It may be a pale shadow of the original, but there is enough of that magic to make it enjoyable. Seeing these predominantly veteran actors reconnect with their characters is a joy, even if they are not doing much, or if some of the situations they are placed in are patently ridiculous (say, like thinking you have accidentally hired a hitman while drunk).
Maggie Smith leads the way as the formerly racist (still wonderfully acerbic) Muriel. The life lesson learned in the previous movie seems to have carried on here, and has lead to a transformation in the character that, although drastic, is still seems organic. Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie and Roland Pickup all return, doing the best with the little they have to work with. Richard Gere is now thrown into the mix, seemingly because it is compulsory to add new characters to sequels. For the cast under 60, Dev Patel flies the flag with the overly enthusiastic dreamer Sonny, even managing to get a traditional Bollywood dance number along the way. He again brings the right mix of blind optimism and comedic timing to the character.
Really, the lacklustre title tells you all you need to know about the film. It might not bring much new to the franchise, but it is an enjoyable, albeit inferior, continuation of the first.