‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ Is Second-Best

By Mark Jackson, Epoch Times
March 4, 2015 2:37 pm Last Updated: March 5, 2015 11:26 am

“This is Route 66! And we are most assuredly getting our kicks!!” brays the perennially hyperactive Sonny (Dev Patel) as he floors the accelerator on his rented Mustang, nearly giving ancient Muriel (Maggie Smith) a heart infarction.

From the prequel: Sonny owns and Muriel manages “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotelin Jaipur, India. So why are they racing down the American West’s Route 66?

They’re headed to San Diego, see, to pitch a second hotel (hence the movie’s title) to an American retirement-home chain, for purposes of investment.

Not having seen the first movie, you might ask, “What sort of an establishment is “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”?

Instead of old folks in a depressing home, they’re in an exotic hotel in sunny India, looked after by sunny Sonny.

Well, it’s a place where British retirees go to have some mild hijinks, tomfoolery, and some prehistoric fooling around. It’s all very pleasant and a little bit touching, isn’t it? Well, the first “Marigold” was. This second one, not so much.

L - R: Celia Imrie as "Madge Hardcastle," Ronald Pickup as "Norman Cousins," Diana Hardcastle as "Carol," Judi Dench as "Evelyn Greenslade," Maggie Smith as "Muriel Donnely" and Bill Nighy as "Douglas Ainslie" in THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
(L-R) Celia Imrie as Madge Hardcastle, Ronald Pickup as Norman Cousins, Diana Hardcastle as Carol, Judi Dench as Evelyn Greenslade, Maggie Smith as Muriel Donnelly, and Bill Nighy as Douglas Ainslie in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” (Laurie Sparham, AP / Fox Searchlight Films)

Where were we? An inspector (Richard Gere) is dispatched by CEO (David Strathairn) to Jaipur to have a look-see. As he says, “We’ll send a guy.”

So when Gere’s character turns up at the hotel claiming to be a writer, Sonny is certain he’s the guy. Why? Because he’s named Guy! Sigh. It’s “Who’s on First?” lite.

The arrival of Guy puts Sonny immediately into a turbo mode of his default arm-flailing, bowing-and-scraping, fawning-and-beaming, brown-nosing-and-bold-faced-lying, young-Indian-male-yenta-doorman-maître-d’, self.

Can we just say right here, a little bit of Sonny goes a long way? Like, to Jaipur and back? Twice? Sonny is annoying as all get-out.

What else is happening? Evelyn (Judi Dench) goes shopping! For fabric! She’s a shopper for a British fabric boutique now! That’s fun, right?

We revisit the first hotel’s “morning roll call,” one of Sonny’s better ideas, for purposes of determining who’s not dead.

Douglas (Bill Nighy), doing a Brit version of Christopher Walken’s nutty syntax, is still in love with Evelyn, but they’re both stiff-upper-lip Brits, like Anthony Hopkins in “The Remains of the Day” so they can’t talk about it. So that’s fun.

The forgoing, plus all the other love-birds-of-a-certain-age stories are all appetizers—the main course being Sonny’s excessively enthusiastic entrepreneurial drive to start up the new Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Also his engagement to young Sunaina (Tina Desai). Let the nesting begin! Later there will be dancing!

Dev Patel as "Sonny," Richard Gere as "Guy," Tina Desai as "Sunaina," Diana Hardcastle as "Carol," Judi Dench as "Evelyn Greenslade," Ronald Pickup as "Norman Cousins" in THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. Photo Credit: Laurie Sparham
Dev Patel (L) as Sonny, Richard Gere as Guy, Tina Desai as Sunaina, Diana Hardcastle as Carol, Judi Dench as Evelyn Greenslade, and Ronald Pickup as Norman Cousins in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” (Laurie Sparham, AP / Fox Searchlight Films)

Now, while Sonny was in America, Sunaina had been rehearsing their wedding dance moves with old boyfriend Kushal (Shazad Latif).

Sonny hates Kushal! He’s handsome, he wants to buy the same hotel Sonny does, and he teases Sonny about his “out-pop-y” ears! But Sonny needn’t worry; Sunaina finds Kushal’s ears to be too close to his head.

Meanwhile, Guy’s diggin’ on Mrs. Kapoor (Sonny’s mom) like an old soul record.

Can We Recast?

Dev Patel as "Sonny" and Tina Desai as "Sunaina" in THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. Photo credit: Laurie Sparham
Dev Patel as Sonny and Tina Desai as Sunaina in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” (Laurie Sparham, AP / Fox Searchlight)

AP / Fox Searchlight Films

With British theater greats Dench and Smith alone, this is a ridiculously formidable cast, and of course Nighy and Gere are no slouches.

But all of them, with the exception of Nighy, are dramatic powerhouses, not known particularly for clowning.

Maggie Smith in her smoldering-hot youth, played Desdemona to theater-god Laurence Olivier’s Othello—it’s almost sacrilege for her to have to share a screen with upstart Dev Patel. But then, that’s the job of acting.

A casting director’s dream: the “SNL” female powerhouse team! Fey, Poehler, Gasteyer, Dratch, Oteri, Shannon, Wiig. Age them, have them use accents, let them run amok. Just hire them for every comedic thing from now on, please.

All in all, the first “Marigold” exceeded expectations because it was a fresh concept. And a nice concept.

Instead of old folks in a depressing home, they’re in an exotic hotel in sunny India, looked after by sunny Sonny, who does care, if too exuberantly. They get new leases on life and, for most of them, love.

“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is indeed second-best. The element of surprise is long gone, the love’s gone a bit stale, and Sonny talks too much. But he does dance! He dances well!

‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’
Director: John Madden
Starring: Dev Patel, Richard Gere, Bill Nighy, David Strathairn, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Lillete Dubey, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Penelope Wilton
Running time: 2 hrs. 2 minutes
Release date: March 6
Rated PG
2.5 stars out of 6