It is, under any circumstances, quite difficult to catch fire twice with the same story line. Lightning, as it turns out seldom strikes twice in the same place. Yet, if you have a compelling cast, a good storyline, some wit and some wisdom, and an interesting enough setting it does happen once in a while. On the cast front, and the setting front ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ gets the nod as a worthy sequel. Unfortunately, the second movie doesn’t quite do the job on the plot front, with too many intertwined story lines, some of which fizzle and some of which sizzle. The interjection of Richard Gere into the mix brings a little spark especially when he starts sparking Sonny’s mother (!), but the story line does not adequately develop to a proper conclusion, despite the fact that this move lasts two minutes beyond two hours. And the notion that Norman accidentally took out a contract on his current squeeze Carol, turns humor into farce.
The saving grace of the movie, once again is Maggie Smith who has all the best lines, just like in the first film, and in Downton Abbey for that matter. Oddly, the perfect line to finish this movie to bring it full circle with the first one is not enunciated by Ms. Donnally (aka Maggie). She should have repeated the first movie mantra at the end ‘In the end everything will be alright, and if it’s not alright, then this is not the end’. For my money the real star of this second movie is the delightful Bill Nighy, who finally does get off square zero and win the heart of Evelyn (Judi Dench. It’s great to see her in a less severe role than the one she had for years in the Bond films).
In some ways this movie turns into a Bollywood production with exotic dancing, which is not inappropriate for the celebration of Sonny and Sunena’s wedding, but it feels a bit like filler because of the weakness of some plot lines.. The wedding ceremony is beautiful but too short on substance. It would have been nice to know more about that Indian ceremony in the Hindu tradition.
India is that incredible juxaposition of squalor right next to splendor, with a wedding being an example of the latter, and we could certainly have used more scenic bits in the film, instead of being cooped up in the hotel or the Viceroy Club. But still, the ensemble cast is well worth watching, and the visuals of India are indeed, like the hotel, Exotic. It makes one want to visit Jaipur and Mumbai some day. But I doubt we will be staying at the Marigold hotel again. Alas, the second stay was not as memorable as the first.