The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

 

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A third-rate attempt to be Second Best.

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

A bit of Hollywood twinkle: Lillete Dubey and Richard Gere

 

It seems almost blasphemous to disparage the work of either Judi Dench or Maggie Smith, let alone a combined effort from the national treasures. But even a dame is not above the allure of a good wage packet and a sure-fire hit and no doubt this contrived sequel will suck in the silver spenders. The first film, adapted from Deborah Moggach's novel These Foolish Things – and released just three years ago – was a witty, life-enhancing and credible riposte to the Rajian tales of Kipling and Forster. Here were quintessentially English people in their autumnal years finding new life in the chaotic circus of modern Rajasthan. Whereas the first film was narrated by the recently widowed Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench), the follow-up is related by the imperious spinster Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith).

 

The sequel opens in San Diego, San Francisco, where Muriel and Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) are looking for funding for a second Marigold Hotel, with an eye for a nation-wide franchise (God forbid). Dame Maggie is in typically censorious mode and when later asked how she found America, she replies: “It made death more tempting.” More of this would have been fine but the film suffers from a slapdash approach which no amount of Indian dancing and colourful establishing shots can remedy. Whereas the original managed to retain a degree of plausibility, its adjunct descends into farce, reaching rock bottom with a subplot involving a suspected contract killer.

 

This time round, Dev Patel is just an irritating caricature as Sonny (think Leonard Rossiter on crack), while the incessantly dithering Bill Nighy channels the ghost of John Le Mesurier (no doubt in preparation for his big-screen remake of Dad’s Army). Richard Gere adds a modicum of Hollywood twinkle, but is largely wasted, leaving only Dame Judi to glide through the proceedings like the true queen of her profession. The rest is just cheesy, laboured and unwieldy slapstick. Not so much second best as third-rate.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, David Strathairn, Richard Gere, Tina Desai, Tamsin Greig, Lillete Dubey, Diana Hardcastle.

 

Dir John Madden, Pro Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin, Screenplay Ol Parker, Ph Ben Smithard, Pro Des Martin Childs, Ed Victoria Boydell, Music Thomas Newman, Costumes Louise Stjernsward.

 

Blueprint Pictures/Participant Media-20th Century Fox.

122 mins. UK/USA. 2015. Rel: 26 February 2015. Cert. PG.