As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals – Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.
‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ was one of 2012’s pleasant surprises, a terrific, charming comedy-drama featuring a cast of British acting royalty and set in the colourful landscape of India. It was a big commercial success and earned a couple of awards nominations from the Golden Globes, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when a sequel was announced. The sequel picks up where the first film let off, with the cast of oldies settled in India and proprietor Sonny looking ahead to expand his growing business (with the help of Maggie Smith’s business savvy Muriel of course). New additions to the cast this time include David Stathairn as the CEO of a large hotel chain, and Richard Gere as a new guest, who may or may not be an inspector.
The film follows the same pattern as the original by spreading its time across the ensemble and telling several different stories with each character, but the storytelling isn’t as effective this time round. The biggest void comes from the absence of Tom Wilkinson’s character, who provided a lot of the heart in the original, and a couple of attempts to craft a more dramatic arc for other characters isn’t nearly as effective. In the original, many of the characters stories interacted more which created a more fluid feel to proceedings, whereas in this case a lot of the individual stories feel a little slight and could have benefited from some streamlining. One of the downsides of ensemble storytelling is that some characters will inevitably feel sidelined, and in this case that’s Bill Nighy, who is essentially given a retread of his arc in the first film.
The biggest driver of these issues is the two major storylines which essentially take over the entire film – the attempts to expand the business and Sonny and Sunaina’s upcoming wedding. Both of these elements heavily feature Dev Patel’s Sonny at the expense of the older guests, and his character was definitely better in the first film with less screentime. Back in 2012, when I reviewed the original film for another website, I commented that Dev Patel cuts the line fine between charming and annoying, and unfortunately in this case he’s more on the annoying side. The main positive of the business storyline is it gives a lot of time to Richard Gere, and his charming silver fox slots perfectly into the ensemble (attracting a great deal of attention from the ladies in the cast, naturally!) and it does provide plenty of opportunities for Maggie Smith to continue stealing the show. She also provides most of the humour with Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup’s hilarious duo from the first film feeling slightly neutered here.
Many of the elements that made the first film so successful remain, namely the vibrant soundtrack and the colourful locations but overall, the laughs are fewer and the drama less effective than the original. ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ is a solid watch with a stellar cast of old Brits and if you liked the first film, you’ll find enough to enjoy here.
Directed By: John Madden
Starring: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Tamsin Greig, Penelope Wilton, Diana Hardcastle, Tena Desae, Lillete Dubey, David Strathairn and Richard Gere