Grievously overstuffed with a week’s worth of sitcom plots, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel glides along on its wonderful cast. Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup are all still alive and occupy the same rooms they did in the film’s 2011 predecessor.
Dev Patel’s Sonny Kapoor and Smith’s Muriel Donnelly are working together to expand The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’s brand with a big American hotel chain. This business angle opens up vacancies for new guests played by Richard Gere and Tamsin Greig (wonderful on Showtime’s “Episodes”), both of whom may or may not be hotel inspectors. Sonny’s impending wedding to lovely Sunaina (Tina Desai), jeopardized by the budding hotel impresario’s jealousy of a family friend, also takes up chunks of the just-over-two-hour film. Sonny may have regressed intellectually since the original. And nearly everyone endures some sort of romantic entanglement.
The subplot where Norman thinks he may have mistakenly put out a hit on girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle) might be the most baffling concocted by screenwriter Ol Parker. An entire film could have focused on the chaste courtship between Nighy’s Douglas and Dench’s Evelyn. Witnessing Gere, who was born in the same year as Nighy and new arrival David Strathairn, joining the senior circuit is both amusing and satisfying; he transitions into the role with grace. Despite some groan-inducing narrative meanderings and a stay that exceeds its checkout time, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a mostly pleasant visit with old friends.
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