Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The-Second-Best-Exotic-Marigold-Hotel-Poster

All the old cast are back for the sequel to the, surprise, 2012 box office hit (with just one exception, obviously – if you’ve seen it), even Penelope Wilton. This time, Tamsin Greig has been added to the cast list as well as Hollywood legend Richard Gere. What could possibly go wrong?

The film picks up after the success of Sonny’s (Dev Patel) crumbling hotel for retired British ex-pats. He and Mrs Donnelly (Maggie Smith) have gone to America to look for a big hotel chain to help them expand, as the original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is full to capacity with the cast of the first film. The company agrees – on the proviso that the hotel passes a ‘secret shopper’ style test. And this becomes Sonny’s main focus for the rest of the film, even though he is also getting married.

As before, the cast of veteran British actors hold up their characters from the first film; Bill Nighy and Judi Dench continue their will-they-won’t-they flirtations, which is starting to become strained after 2 years. Celia Imrie is putting it about, Maggie Smith is still trying to get to grips with her uptight nature and Ronald Pickup is still struggling with monogamy and jealousy.

This is all well and good, but these characters are two years on from the last film and all seem to be in exactly the same place as they were when they first landed in India in the first film. In fact, they have all become one-dimensional caricatures of how they were originally written.

Dev Patel is on top form, though his character has become quite unlikable and self-obsessed; he just about prevents you from completely turning against Sonny. But only just.

Richard Gere does what Richard Gere does best: flutters his eyelashes, looks down and sighs a lot. Tamsin Greig is the only character with any real depth, but she gets completely sidelined for the vast majority of the film.

The main thing that really sets this sequel apart from the first film is that it doesn’t really focus on India. In the first film India was a character in the film, something all the other characters were trying to get to grips with culturally. I suppose the cast is meant to have become used to the culture clash by now; however, this doesn’t ring true because of the limited progression in their stories. The only Indian culture contained in this film are a couple of Bollywood style dance routines and the depiction of the wedding. But this hardly figured in the story at all and when it did it looked more like a pop video than a genuine depiction of real life that was so brilliantly captured in the first film. Fairly reminiscent of the closing sequence of Slumdog Millionaire.

This is the definition of flogging a dead donkey or film made by committee. What made the first film such a success was the culture clash, but also the deeply personal stories that each character was facing, prompting their move to another country in the first place. The second film is more of a straightforward romantic comedy with more characters than it has time for and much less depth.

What it comes down to is this: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is just that. Unfortunately.

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