Not that cinephiles were expecting a follow up to the first film, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel takes us back to the vibrant, Indian retirement centre with many old faces and a few, well, less old faces.
It certainly fares better than many other unexpected sequels out there. The premise sees Dev Patel’s Sooney and fiancé Sunaina forging new plot territory as they expand the hotel and charter the turbulent seas leading up to wedding day.
The scenery is colourful and vibrant right down to the elephants’ mokos. Sure, there’s enough middle aged drama to sink a battleship but hey, it’s stupid to think this is aimed at anyone below middle age. Richard Gere nails his role with ease playing a secretive writer who secretly longs for something, or someone, more exotic in his life. However, it’s Maggie Smith who shines as the lo-fi comedic genius in her role as the tribal elder – Muriel. Judi Dench and Bill Nighy return with familiar aplomb but ultimately leave audiences wishing they’d seen more of Strathairn and Gere.
The humour is more a closed lip hum than laugh-out-loud, although, in a couple of places, it may even crack the sternest faces. Patel’s Sooney hurries the story along to the inevitable conclusion while the various subplots seem more content to walk their way to the finish. The upbeat ending is partially overshadowed by some ambiguously grim voice over which seemed an odd editing choice from someone higher up the chain searching for ways to jerk tears.
A solid addition to the family friendly franchise, Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doesn’t suffer the same fate as Taken 2, for example, but nor does it really shine above the original. Sunday night after dinner fare at best.
Reviewed by Nic Brookland
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is out in NZ on 26 February.