The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel—The AllMovie Review

★ ★ ★

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was like the septuagenarian Avengers; it was a hit largely because it was a thrill to watch legends like Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Maggie Smith play scenes together as British retirees settling in India. The follow-up, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is as much a remake as a sequel, and it will please those who enjoyed the first one—it’s The Avengers: Age of Octogenarian.

This time around, hotel proprietor Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) attempts to buy a second building with the help of tenant and business partner Muriel (Smith). They pitch the idea to an American company headed by Ty Burley (David Strathairn), who promises to send an undercover investigator to stay at the hotel and report back on its potential as an investment. When Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) appears, Sonny becomes convinced that he is the investigator and begins fawning over him at every turn. Sonny’s impending marriage soon takes a backseat to his business concerns, and this causes much strife between him and his fiancé Sunaina (Tina Desai).

Meanwhile, retirees Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Evelyn (Judi Dench) continue their will-they-or-won’t-they relationship. He is very interested in pursuing her, but she is unexpectedly offered a job buying textiles from local vendors for a large clothing company, which further complicates their already fraught bond. Also, Norman (Ronald Pickup) believes he may have accidentally hired a man to kill his girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle), and Madge (Celia Imrie) is forced to choose between two worthy suitors.

Ol Parker’s script juggles the characters easily and without fuss. Everybody gets a good scene or two, the jokes are evenly distributed, and we never spend too long with any one story line before moving on to someone else whose company we enjoy. Many of the issues are recycled from the first film, but this is a movie less concerned with drama and story than with character and atmosphere.

Fully aware of this, director John Madden and his talented cinematographer Ben Smithard fill the frame with color. The vivid hues pop off the screen—the reds are especially bold and striking, while still seeming utterly natural—and they make India look prettier and more lovely than it often does in the movies. The final sequence depicts Sonny and Sunaina’s wedding, and the ornate dresses and group dances are an aesthetic pleasure.

The elder actors are, of course, perfect. They never overplay the comedy or the drama, and this reserve works in counterpoint to Dev Patel’s high-energy patter. The contrast is amusing, and shines early on during Sonny and Muriel’s business meeting with Ty. Strathairn and Gere add more grey hair to the cast, and fit right in with this already very comfortable ensemble.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is product through and through, and it’s been designed with the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in mind. Everyone involved has made much better movies, but it’s still nice to see that the people behind this franchise made a genuine effort to recapture the appeal of the original instead of simply cashing in on name recognition.