Despite a cheery tone and a beautifully British sense of humour, John Madden's comedy sequel will have to settle for being second best.
A surprise critical and commercial hit upon its release in 2011, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel came to represent the sort of feel-good entertainment that was largely lacking from Hollywood at the time. Now four years on, John Madden and the gang reunite for another lighthearted jaunt through the beauties of India, but even with a set-up this breezy and casual, can the curse of the inferior sequel ever really be lifted?
Picking up mere months from where its predecessor left off, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel finds hopelessly ambitious Sonny (Dev Patel) back to his old tricks, darting across the globe with surrogate grandmother Muriel (Maggie Smith) en-tow, pitching expansion plans to big-name bosses. But when they return, Sonny soon finds his plans usurped by a visiting family-friend and former nemesis, bringing both his engagement and the livelihood of his newest friends at the hotel into question. On top of the current madness comes plenty of the expected side-plots also, from a tricky will they/won’t they romance between Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy), to the appearance of the mysterious American stranger Guy (Richard Gere).
It seems only necessary to outline now that, in spite of the decidedly average star-rating listed above, John Madden’s film has very few noticeable flaws. As the jolly little comedy it spends the majority of its time being, it hits home rather sweetly, blending the dry British-wit of the first film with a welcome dose of well-calculated wisdom. Although some jokes never seem to quite reach their mark, the ones that do are beautifully timed and performed by the film’s aging cast, who never fail to raise a smile in even the darkest moments. Unfortunately, whereas this does provide something of a cheery tone to the majority of the proceedings, that’s about all it does.
As the number of jokes begins to subside in favour of a more heartfelt conclusion, the wandering nature of the film’s somewhat shaky plot drifts to the forefront. Put basically, aside from the central caper and a few short story-strands left over from the first film, not an awful lot really happens here. Sonny’s ambition drives him into sticky situations, the wealth of retirees crack wise about their supposably impending demise and, well, that’s about it. This isn’t to say that these individual parts themselves don’t work well, it’s just that there simply aren’t enough of them to make for a particularly enrapturing watch.
In terms of comedy sequels, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel can in no way be seen as a failure – or anything less than an entertaining little jaunt, for that matter. Although it never quite manages to build on the success of its predecessor in a particularly inventive way, John Madden’s film remains solidly amusing and with its eclectic, well-formed cast all proving good company, fans of the series will likely not be disappointed by this new effort.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015), directed by John Madden, is released by 20th Century Fox, Certificate PG.