'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'
Director: John Madden
Cast: Judi Dench, Dev Patel, Bill Nighy, Tena Desai, Lillete Dubey
A couple of years ago, a wee little Brit comedy with a gigantic ensemble of the best British film and theatre actors charmed everyone who saw it. Director John Madden, coming off a tense spy thriller ('The Debt') delivered an easygoing, lovely little comedy that was not much in depth, but incredibly hard to hate. Since the film made a ton of money, a sequel was inevitable.
So now we have 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel', an all too obvious attempt at a cash grab from pretty much everyone involved in the film. It's not necessarily a bad movie, but certainly an unremarkable one.
The story picks up where the original left off — after the hotel becomes a success in the prior film Muriel (Maggie Smith) decides to settle in India and plans to expand her operation along with Sonny (Dev Patel) by chartering a US firm to fund the construction of a new hotel. Meanwhile a rival with a bone to pick with the two of them threatens to sabotage the expansion, as Sonny is busy planning his wedding to Sunaina (Tena Desai). On the other side, Douglas (Bill Nighy) is still struggling to share his feelings for Evelyn (Judi Dench) who, in turn, is offered a new job. Madge (Celia Imrie) is perpetually confused about her choices in life while Norman (Ronald Pickup) is struggling to smoothen things out with Carol (Diana Hardcastle). On top of all this an American wannabe writer (Richard Gere) falls in love with Sonny's mother (Lillete Dubey).
Just like the previous film, 'The Second Exotic Marigold Hotel' is a mélange of short stories stringed together into one single narrative. Even the problems with the film echo the ones in the original — Sonny's story is given more heft and neither is Dev Patel able to hold his own amongst the acting legends surrounding him, nor is his character logically sound.
There's also a woefully horrid subplot where Norman misunderstands a cabbie and believes he's going to murder Carol. Some of the stories work, others don't, but they're not displeasing to the eye. The sunlit imagery is once again wonderful and the performances from pretty much everyone is winning. Most of the film is crowd pleasing to the core, and when the talent on display is so effortless in entertaining you, it's hard to walk away from the film with any negative emotion. It's the first feel-good movie of the year, and that's always a good thing.