Opening this week:
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel—This sequel to the easygoing 2012 comedy about aging Brits retiring to a crumbling but comfortable hotel in Jaipur, India doesn’t stretch the material very far. It’s just more of the same, with most of the stars—Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Penelope Wilton and Diana Hardcastle—returning for more mild antics.
Dev Patel is back too, as the overenthusiastic young manager, along with the imposing Lillete Dubey as his stern but attractive mother and Tina Desae as his gorgeous fiancée. Richard Gere also turns up as a mystery man at the hotel, presumably a bone tossed to the American market.
So there are new romances and adventures and intrigues. In perhaps the cleverest of them, ladies' man Pickup comes to suspect that he may have inadvertently taken out a hit on his girlfriend—this strand could actually be a solid basis for a pretty good noir thriller.
But we’re never asked to take it seriously here. Nothing too upsetting happens, and the movie climaxes with a big Bollywood-style dance to that irresistible music.
It’s no big deal, but you read that cast, right? The movie almost can’t be a complete waste with any of them in it, let alone all.
Around midpoint, Dench and Smith exchange a few commonplace lines, with the subtext that both of them know a piece of difficult news that one isn’t discussing. All the mastery that these two have accumulated over their careers is there, in the steely compassion undergirding this short scene. It made Second Best Exotic worth sitting through all by itself