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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
A colorful return to Jaipur
Photo: Fox Searchlight

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Directed by John Madden
Rated PG
Booked 6 March 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a curious mix of the life affirming and the soul sucking.

Route 66

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Every once in a while a movie comes along that is so well meaning and so well mannered it seems almost mean to dislike it. Such is the case with this sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Even so, the clamor for another helping of septuagenarians in heat must rank up there with the middle-agers saga sequel, The Second Hot Tub Time Machine, or whatever the heck that one was called.

No doubt some people will watch SBEMH and walk away thinking they saw something great. This writer is not amongst their ranks.

Looking back on the experience, maybe part of the sensory conflict comes from the cast. It’s a top-notch collection of British thespians who could likely make a reading of the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper sound meaningful. Here, they’re shills for bumper sticker philosophy, the kind of junk wisdom that turned Eat Pray Love into a self-affirmation hell ride.

Midnight’s Parents

All right. Time to (gently… gently...) peel off the Band-Aid.

Face it. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and this tag-along can, rather harshly, be described as harmless, landlocked Love Boat episodes for the geriatric set.

As established in the first movie (which was based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach), the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is intended to be a retirement community for British ex-pats, tucked away in the serenity of Jaipur, India. To say the least, the place is rough around the edges, but its charms suck in the residents, who have a funny way of sticking around instead of checking out (as in moving on to the great hereafter).

That lack of churn has inspired Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), an over-eager and incompetent charmer, to expand his empire, with the help of an outside investor.

Yeah. Okay. That's a decent premise for a sequel. Problem is, what follows is more Wrigley than Nietzsche.

Subplot Traffic Jam

Between the morning roll calls (intended to suss out if any of the guests “checked out” during the night), several subplots are stitched together in an attempt to make a colorful cinematic sari. Whether they’re older (such as with Bill Nighy and Judi Dench) or younger (Dev Patel and Tina Desai), the characters struggle with love. There’s a silly (as in dopey) subplot about a one-eyed tuk-tuk driver imperiling one couple’s love (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle). Another throws Richard Gere into the mix, setting ovaries alight and sticking Sonny’s mom (Lillete Dubey) in the thick of romantic overtures.

Through it all, Nighy — as respected and well dressed as he may be — acts like he’s a British Christopher Walken. It’s gotta be said: Walken has more than 6 years on Nighy, so Walken, by rights, has dibs on being Walken.

Sure, Dame Dench can utter a line like “The distance between what we want and what we fear is the width of an eyelash” and lift it off the bumper sticker. And Maggie Smith, the most colorful of the characters by way of her unbridled crotchetiness, gets the last words with “There's no present like the time.” Smith's character wins by being painfully honest; she doesn’t give advice, she fully acknowledges she gives opinion.

When all is said and done, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel offers a genteel experience that will appeal to many guests. But the amount of meaning on display, in its totality, could fit on a Celestial Seasonings tea bag tag.

• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.

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