The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2015)
A few years ago, older audiences were given a rare gift in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A fish-out-of-water story, set in beautiful India with a magnificent cast, it warmed the cockles of many a heart. So why ruin it?
In The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Sonny (Dev Patel) is attempting to expand his business. With the assistance of his co-manager, octogenarian Muriel (Maggie Smith), he attempts to secure investors in the States. Meanwhile in India, the British expats are going about their lives and preparing for Sonny’s upcoming wedding to Sunaina (Tina Desai).
This follow up is a blatant cash grab. No doubt its target audience awaits it with bated breath, and will only realise they’ve wasted their pensions when it’s too late. Financial incentives aside, the film is a pointless exercise. There are no more jokes about culture shock because the characters have all settled in to what is no longer a novel setting at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The screenplay by Ol Parker is excruciatingly predictable. After adapting Deborah Moggach’s novel the first time around, he now has to opt for originality and he fails abysmally. The ‘twists’ are seen coming a mile off, and while sometimes they involve a minor surprise, it feels like Parker is going “A-ha! Gotcha! You only had it 90% right!”
The direction by John Madden is adequate – India still looks stunning and the film is injected with a real warmth similar to last time. But it isn’t enough unless its audience is suffering from dementia. There is no growth in any of the older characters – maybe that’s because they’re already old – they are all just going through the motions, seemingly waiting to die. Maggie Smith, while still a powerhouse, has lost some of her feisty spirit from the original, and Judi Dench just waddles about in a kaftan. Bill Nighy is as always a delight, but Tom Wilkinson’s presence (and stronger storyline) is sorely missing this time around. Richard Gere turns up as the resident silver fox, but let’s face it: his charm has been lost somewhere up his butt with that gerbil.
And then there’s Dev Patel. He’s usually adorable, but Sonny is such an insufferable mess for the majority of the film that it greatly weakens the film’s appeal. He’s insecure, jealous, self-pitying, and a brownnoser, and though he’s obviously going to come good by the end, he’s hardly a protagonist you can root for.
Non-demanding oldies may still appreciate The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but while the original offered something fresh and fun especially for them, the sequel is all dried up. Given they are part of a growing cinema demographic, older audiences deserve better than to be treated as senile fools who will settle for second best.
This review was first published at Film Blerg