SecondBestExoticcoverGrade: B-/C+
Entire family: Yes, but….
2015, 122 min., Color
Rated PG for some language and suggestive comments
20th Century Fox
Aspect ratio:
Featured audio:
Includes: Blu-ray, Digital HD
Bonus features: C+
Amazon link

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) was a surprise hit because it hit home with its basic messages. A group of older British retirees traveled to India because of a brochure that glamorized The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and made it look like the ideal place to retire, to find a replacement husband, or to stay there while getting a hip operation. Unknown to each other, they discovered things in common; foreign to India and some of them suspicious or awkward, they found an appreciation for a different culture and a level of comfort; and feeling a little tired and depressed by their late stage of life, they found some measure of renewal by their association with the hotel’s optimistic and energetic young owner. It was a feel-good movie about growing old, and there aren’t many of those around.

But The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) is a sequel that really didn’t need to be made. Missing is the charm and freshness of the first film, replaced by a formulaic plot and a paucity of humor, with a running gag that’s a 180-degree turn from the positive attitude toward aging that we encountered in the first film. In the original, one of the residents died, but what kind of tone does it set when in the sequel the proprietor, Sonny (Dev Patel), begins each morning with a roll call so the residents can answer . . . and let him know they’re still alive?

Two standard plot devices that we’ve seen before drive the narrative: a wedding and an anonymous visiting inspector who will decide whether Sonny can create a second hotel. Sonny is finally marrying the love of his life, Sunaina (Tina Desai), and there are some song-and-dance numbers SecondBestExoticscreenthat liven up the film. As with the first, each character has a subplot. Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy) are now working and fully immersed in local culture and finding occasional times to date each other. Carol and Norman (Diana Hardcastle, Ronald Pickup) are learning how to be exclusive to each other, while Madge (Celie Imrie) still plays the field and juggles two wealthy suitors. Somewhat lost in the shuffle is Muriel (Maggie Smith), who has been named co-manager of the hotel and seems to exist only as a confidante for everyone else. Meanwhile, there are two new arrivals (Richard Gere, Tamsin Greig) and only one nice room, and of course one of them is thought to be the inspector. Another sideplot about a business rival seems thrown in for good measure.

More than in the first, the screenplay feels like a paint-by-numbers affair, but the acting and the characters remain strengths. Patel is as energetic as a stand-up comic, and his onscreen mother (Lillete Dubey) gets something fresh to do as the object of Gere’s attentions. As with the first film, India itself is really the most colorful draw, and if you want to make a pilgrimage you can visit the Pearl Palace Heritage Guesthouse in Jaipur, where Second Best was filmed. But the movie truly is “second best,” which is not an uncommon thing for sequels. I was charmed by the first film, yet as much as I wanted to like this one I found it slightly dull. So did my family.

Language: some mild swear words
Sex: n/a
Adult situations: n/really
Takeaway: No matter what your age, after watching this film or the first you’ll dream of going to India.