Sunday, March 8, 2015

Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Here's an example of a film that probably did not need to exist, but ends up being a pleasant surprise. Much of the success of "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," a sequel to the surprise 2011 hit, can be attributed to the cast, all of whom bring a certain level of professionalism and charm to material that is arguably flimsy.

In the first film, a group of British retirees travel to India and stay at the titular hotel, which is run by Sonny (Dev Patel), but then end up deciding to stay on permanently. In the sequel, Sonny is attempting to expand his operations by purchasing a building that he will convert into a second hotel. At the same time, he is planning his wedding to Sunaina (Tina Desai) and expectantly waiting for an inspector to arrive and determine whether the property will fall under the umbrella of a U.S. hotel chain operated by David Strathairn.

Muriel (Maggie Smith), the resident fusspot, is acting as co-owner with Sonny, while the other residents of the hotel have their own set of problems: Douglas (Bill Nighy) wants to take his "relationship" with Evelyn (Judi Dench), who nabs a job working with a textile company, to the next level.

Madge (Celia Imrie) is, as the song goes, torn between two lovers, while Norman (Ronald Pickup) attempts monogamy with a new girlfriend on whom, through strange circumstances, he ends up taking out a hit.

The issue with reviewing a film like "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is that the picture takes characters from a previous movie, throws them into "situations" for the sake of creating a sequel and then tying together their various plot threads. In other words, if you've seen the first film, you pretty much know what you're getting and there's not much more to be said.

But in this case, what you get is pretty good. This sequel is far better than it should be, mostly due to the cast, which also includes Richard Gere, whom Sonny is convinced is the inspector. Smith combines the grouchy antics of her character with some genuine warmth, Patel is energetic, to say the least, and Nighy and Dench bring a certain amount of pathos. So, while "Second Best" may not bring much new to the table, it's an enjoyable, well made and worth a look.

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