The greatest thing about The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the title. God bless truth in advertising. This is a pale imitation of the original. The existence of which preys upon those wanting to relive the good times of the first film. It bilks poor trusting folks out of their hard earned cash. Judging from my audience that would be retired people over 60 which makes the act even more pernicious. The movie is a such an obvious cash grab I’m surprised they didn’t offer this in IMAX 3D so they could charge more money honestly. Truth be told, I found the first one to be kind of insipid. Yet that was an exhilarating enchantment compared to this transgression.
Let’s start with the overburdened plot. It’s positively stuffed with an extreme number of characters with yawn inducing story threads. Most of the ensemble returns with the exception of Tom Wilkinson who is sorely missed. If you saw the first one you’ll understand why he’s not here. He should thank the screenwriter. Sonny (Dev Patel) desperately wants to expand his hotel business with another property. But wait! He’s also planning his wedding to pretty Sunaina (Tina Desai) while being jealous of handsome family friend Kushal (Shazad Latif) whom Sonny distrusts. Is Kushal trying to steal his girl or does he want his real estate? Or both? Who cares! It’s hard to get past Sonny’s obsequious gestures and cloying demeanor. His embarrassing behavior is a full-blown caricature. Imagine the hyperactive movements of a Disney cartoon and you’ll get his performance.
But we have yet to scratch the surface of this convoluted saga! Embittered curmudgeon Muriel (Maggie Smith) now manages the existing property with him. Evelyn (Judi Dench) works as a textile buyer and keeps tour guide Douglas (Bill Nighy) at bay. Let’s not forget his ex wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) who shows up late in the film just to be insufferable. Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Carol (Diana Hardcastle) are trying to remain faithful to each other. But are they? Madge (Celia Imrie) is always on the make. She makes Blanche Devereaux look like a nun. That’s a Golden Girls reference for you Millennials. Even with two wealthy suitors panting after her, another handsome visitor makes her head spin. That arrival is Guy, played by Richard Gere who is newly added to the cast. Is he the liaison sent to inspect the hotel for a possible investor? Never mind. He’s actually got his eyes on Sonny’s no nonsense mother (Lillete Dubey) in a slapdash romance that has about as much spark of a damp sponge. Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) is also a new guest there to look over the place for her mother. Can she even stay here? She looks like she’s in her 40s, a comparative baby to this lot. Did I mention she has a thing for Kushal?
The romantic escapades of the inhabitants of the Marigold Hotel is the subject of this soap opera masquerading as sophisticated entertainment. This is Love, American Style for the geriatric set. Although I hope I didn’t insult the early 1970s ABC TV anthology series. Seriously though. What are they feeding these folks? Even with all the amorous adventures, the production is absolute drudgery for a moviegoer to endure. Not much of consequence happens. Even the title refers to a subplot that doesn’t really figure into the story until the very end. A sensible and evolving drama is clearly not a priority of the script. The narrative advances with the urgency of a three-toed sloth. Not to boast, but I’m rather proud I was able to stay awake during the snoozy happenings. Naturally everything culminates in a Bollywood style musical number at an Indian wedding. Its presence only to adhere to some checklist of clichés. By then I had already checked out of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. My advice? Don’t even bother checking in.