There is very little as painful as watching a film that doesn't need to be, though it is certainly a credit to the warmth and comfort of this story and cast that The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel manages to be appealing despite a nearly constant awareness that we didn't really need to revisit these characters.
With John Madden returning to helm the film and Ol Parker once again scripting, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel seems to have pulled back on the original film's fairly resolved characters in favor of creating familiar story threads, unresolved plot lines that had already been resolved, and an occasional sense of conflict that never feels genuine.
Somehow, it still manages to entertain.
In case you missed the original film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a simple and relaxing film about a group of British senior citizens who retired to the Jaipur, India area and experience light, enjoyable forms of culture shock along the way. The film, somewhat unexpectedly, made a decent profit and, thusly, we are saddled with a second, far less relaxed and far less simple, story in which characters change for no reason and relationships that had been well developed seem like they have been rewound for the sake of the film.
Dev Patel, also in this weekend's Chappie, is back as Sonny, and this time around he's become even more ambitious with plans to open, you guessed it, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with Maggie Smith here as co-manager and a completely unnecessary plotline of his impending nuptials to Sunaina (Tina Desai), who is growing tired of his lack of attention to the wedding in favor of his controlling and whiny attention to all things related to financial gain.
Among the original hotel's guests, Evelyn (Judi Dench) is back and this time around has a job that allows her to travel around, while her almost romance with the recently single Douglas (Bill Nighy) is still as stagnant as ever. Madge (Celia Imrie) is the film's naughty one, or at least as naughty as you can get with a PG-rating. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is reconsidering the whole monogamy thing with Carol (Diana Hardcastle) and things get a bit interesting when Douglas's ex (Penelope Wilton) shows up. The film adds in newcomers David Strathairn and Richard Gere, the latter being just a wee bit traumatic for those of us who've been aware of Gere's career for years.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is never a bad film. It's simply an unnecessary one. There's nothing in the film that makes us feel like we really needed to check back in, while too many of the storylines feel manufactured for the sake of a second film. It's a decent enough film, and if you found yourself really loving these characters then it may very well be worth your time for a return trip.
There's no one here delivering award-winning performances, but even with manufactured conflicts and unnecessary threads this is a far more relaxed and congenial film than most of what we find in the multiplex these days. Director John Madden, who gave us the original and the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love, ends the film on a high note with an Indian wedding that gives the film a celebratory and warm feeling that one only wishes had been far more present. This truly is The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but sometimes second best is still good enough.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic