The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Review

(2.5 STARS)

If there’s ever been a movie title more truthful than The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I don’t know what it is.

This movie is the definition of fine. It goes down really easily because it doesn’t try to do too much. Because it can dispose of things like character introductions and scene setting, it jumps right into a series of incidents that vacillate between sweetly amusing and frustratingly contrived. Lather, rinse, repeat for two hours, and you’re moderately satisfied, but you probably forgot 90% of what you just watched.

A few months or so after the events of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, our elderly protagonists are still living in and loving India. Evelyn (Judi Dench) has been offered a job as a fabric buyer. She’s being gently courted by the Douglas (Bill Nighy), who wishes to accelerate things and introduce Evelyn to his daughter. Madge (Celia Imrie) must choose between two extremely wealthy suitors, and Norman (Ronald Pickup) may or may not have accidentally paid for a hit on his girlfriend, Carol (Diana Hardcastle).

Meanwhile, Muriel (Maggie Smith) is co-running the rapidly improving titular abode with Sonny (Dev Patel). Their eyes are on expansion, and together, they travel to America to meet with a group of investors who might help him purchase the space for their next Marigold-ian venture. And this drives the bulk of the plot forward as Sonny balances business and his upcoming wedding, while Muriel ruminates on the fact that she likely won’t be around to see all the Marigolds fully bloom.

Like the first film, the series of mini storylines are a mixed bag. Unlike the first film, many of them seem utterly half-assed. Norman and Madge, sources of so many solid laughs the first time around, are leaden balloons in this sequel. The “choose between two equally nice men” plot is such an awful cliche, yet this one treads new terrible ground with its preposterous resolution. But the worst this movie has to offer relates to Norman and the accidental hit. It’s like a dream whenever the film focuses on it—a really crummy dream.

Sonny, too, is a nightmare—over-the-top, annoying, sexist. It’s an unpleasant look for your protagonist, and Muriel does her best to reign him in, but she’s more concerned about getting a proper cup of tea (and for good reason). His man crush on Richard Gere is deliciously meta, but it doesn’t do much to save the character or the film in the big picture.

Evelyn and Douglas are the source of the film’s strongest material. (Incidentally, did anyone else think there was a giant Tom-Wilkinson-shaped hole in the middle of this motion picture?) They treat the premise behind this film with the speck of seriousness that it deserves. Their relationship is tender and believable, and quite frankly, both actors are too good to screw it up too much.

From a filmmaking perspective, the film is adequate enough. India’s colors provide a lovely visual backdrop, but beyond that, there’s little noteworthy about John Madden’s direction. The same goes for the film as a whole. It’s fine—mildly amusing, fitfully charming, just … fine.

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