The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
by George Wolf
The efforts of a talented, veteran cast, coupled with a refreshing attitude toward the love lives of senior citizens, enabled The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to rise above a tendency for silly contrivance.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel can’t quite measure up.
Director John Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker return, along with most of the original cast, for a trip back to India where things are busy at the eccentric hotel which caters to “the elderly and beautiful.”
Hotel proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) and girlfriend Sunaina (Tina Desai) are planning their wedding, but Sunny is distracted by business. He wants to expand, and has reached out to a U.S. firm for financial backing. When American “writer” Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) checks in to the hotel, Sonny is convinced he’s actually a spy sent by the prospective business partners.
Guy has barely gotten his room key before Madge (Celia Imrie) has the hots for him, he has his eye on Sonny’s mom (Lillette Dubey), Sonny is jealous of Sunaina’s childhood friend “Kush” (Shazad Latif), and Norman (Ronald Pickup) is afraid he accidentally took out a hit on his girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle). Plus, Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Evelyn (Judi Dench) still haven’t gotten together!
Maybe Captain Stubing can talk some sense into everyone!
It doesn’t take long to realize how much this installment misses the dear departed Graham, as played by Tom Wilkinson. Beyond Wilkinson’s immeasurable talent, Graham’s thoughtful storyline grounded part one in a graceful humanity that the sequel sorely needs. Gere is a fine addition for sheer star power, but his character only serves as a means to add more empty conflict to all the sit-comery.
It’s too bad, because even with Wilkinson gone, this cast features a vast wealth of talent that can instantly improve most any flailing script. The odd man out again is Patel, whose exaggerated histrionics serve as an annoying distraction from his sublime co-stars.
Despite a few charming moments, this sequel is overlong, overdone, and easily Second Best.