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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

They're kind of asking for it by putting the phrase "Second Best" in the title, which this movie certainly lives up to. In many ways, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is just a continuation of the very same thing The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) had to offer -- an incredible cast that feels like old (as in, senior citizen) friends in an exotic setting -- but without the novelty. We're back in India, after all; after the delightful surprise of the first film, this isn't even as exotic.

But what it is, is familiar, and quite comfortably so. The pedestrian script is incidental; almost irrelevant. This movie gets all the life we need or expect from its performers: Maggie Smith; Judi Dench; Bill Nighy; Penelope Wilton; Celia Imre; Ronald Pickup; Diana Hardcastle; all of them living their golden years in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in Jaipur. It's wonderful even to see the return of the regal Indian actress Lillete Dubey as Sonny Kapoor's mother -- Sonny, of course, played by Dev Patel, alongside Tina Desai as Sunaina, Sonny's fiance. As in the first film, Sonny and Sunaina seem present only as token interests for younger crowd -- which, judging by the practically fossilized crowd I was a part of in the movie theatre, was rather unnecessary.

There's a sort of cynical kind of hope in the very existence of a sequel like this one. It turns out, older people go to movies too! Why not make a cash grab aimed at them, just like any other target audience? Arguably this hasn't happened since Grumpier Old Men in 1995. (The old men in that movie are dead now.)

The spectre of death hangs oddly over nearly all the proceedings this time around, right down to Sonny's morning roll call each day, expressly to make sure no one has died. He calls out each of their names and they usually say, "Here!" -- but they might as well be saying, "Still alive!" This sets us up very early on to expect at least one of them to die by the end of the movie, just as the announcement of an "undercover" inspector from a prospective investor sets us up to expect that one of the new guests is the said inspector.

Here's where a bit of silliness comes in. In walks Richard Gere -- he actually plays a man named Guy Chambers, but we might as well just regard him as Richard Gere -- and Sonny immediately assumes he's the inspector, as though it should be so obvious. He bends over backward to accommodate this guy, to the detriment of another new guest, a woman named Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) who we are clearly meant to understand is the real inspector, even though Sonny can't see it. This scenario is met with a somewhat surprising twist late in the game, which is super contrived, but no one who comes to see this movie is going to care.

That's just the thing, about a movie like this. People who go to see it will be those who saw and loved the first movie, and though certainly we'd all agree that the first was inherently superior, and this one is nothing particularly special, it still exists merely to be passively enjoyed, and it will be. I enjoyed myself watching it, and this in spite of its whitewashed portrayal of India, all opulence and romanticized bustling and no squalor to be seen. So what? It's just a movie, not particularly offensive beyond being forgettable -- but fun enough for a couple of hours.

The (still living) gang offers diminishing returns in THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL.

Overall: B
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