The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG for some language and suggestive comments
Running Time: 122 min.
Cast: Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Richard Gere, Lillete Dubey, Celia Imrie, Tina Desai, Diana Hardcastle, Tamsin Greig, David Strathairn, Shazad Latif, Penelope Wilton
Director: John Madden
Screenplay: Ol Parker
Review published March 8, 2015
Though one would have thought this an unlikely property for a franchise, the first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise hit, taking in nearly $140 million worldwide on a $10 million budget. I suppose that kind of coin assured a second venture could be in order if enough of the original cast were game for a reunion. Apparently, they are. These actors must enjoy playing across from one another just as much as we enjoy watching them, and with an all-expenses paid trip to India as a secondary excuse, I guess we shouldn't be too surprised to hear any whose characters didn't expire in the first film have returned.
In this outing, Marigold Hotel proprietor Sonny (Patel, Chappie) is looking to expand the business by purchasing another hotel, using the services of his new partner in business, Muriel (Smith, My Old Lady). An American CEO (Strathairn, Godzilla) is interested, letting them know he's send someone incognito to check out the current establishment to see how well it's run. Enter Guy Chambers (Gere, Arbitrage) an American to whom Sonny immediately assumes if the "guy" that was sent to investigate, and while the young man bends over backwards to make sure he has a pleasant stay, it comes at the risk of losing his footing with his fiancée, Sunaina (Desai, Table No. 21), just shortly before they are to wed.
Other side stories include the on/off relationship between Evelyn (Dench, Philomena) and Douglas (Nighy, I Frankenstein), which is especially in doubt when she is offered a lucrative position purchasing textiles for a leading clothing corporation. At the same time, Norman (Pickup, Prince of Persia) thinks he may have inadvertently told a taxi driver he'd like a hit put out on his new girlfriend, Carol (Hardcastle, If Only), but soon discovers there's more to the story. And Madge (Imrie, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) has a choice to make of her own with not one but two would-be suitors vying for her romantic attention, though she's not quite sure either one of them is "the one."
Screenwriter Ol Parker (Now is Good, Imagine Me & You) keeps the emphasis on the characters, allowing the very fine actors to breathe life into situations that definitely could have played like a television sitcom with a less deft touch. John Madden (Proof, Shakespeare in Love) manages just the right tone, punctuated with truly sumptuous and very colorful cinematography from Ben Smithard (Belle, I Anna) and an absorbingly whimsical musical score from Thomas Newman (The Judge, Get On Up). It's a treat for the eyes and ears.
While it may be a superfluous sequel, it's still light and pithy enough to carry through one more go around, and should especially hit the spot for older moviegoers who can relate to much of the age-spun philosophy the characters espouse throughout. While some of the story threads work better than others, causing the occasionally saggy film to creep over the two-hour mark, the constant switches in characters and backdrops help Madden avoid prolonged lulls. "There's no present like the time," is the catchphrase for this film, and I think for fans of these stars, and the first film especially, you'll probably find the time you spend with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to be a present you won't mind giving yourself.
©2015 Vince Leo