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Check into ‘The Second Best Marigold Hotel’ – Film Review

If there is such a thing as a warm-bath movie, The Second Best Marigold Hotel defines it. Even the title is intended to keep expectations low. Directed by John Madden, SBMH is entertainment that pairs perfectly with a meal of Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Korma, following in the safe footsteps of the original, which grossed $137 million worldwide thank you very much.

The senior comedy, like its predecessors, has a lot of things going for it. There’s location, location, location: the exotic settlings, flora, fauna and fabric of Jaipur, India, that seductive former British colony. And then there’s a cast which, like the Harry Potter saga or Downton Abbey, culls the best of the aging English actors available for the promise of a meaty part with a story arc: that includes Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy, What’s not to love?

The plot could not be more transparent than caramelized onions: hotelier Sonny Kapoor (an antic Dev Patel), in league with fussy-guest-turned-employee Muriel Donnelly (Smith) seeks to expand his hotel empire since success has made it crowded at the original site. The expansion plans are fraught with complications. Kapoor stumbles over his elaborate wedding plans with fiancé Sunaina (model-turned-actress Tina Desai). A mysterious silver fox (Richard Gere) arrives to stir up the remaining estrogen and court Kapoor’s mother. The romance between Douglas and Evelyn (Nighy and Dench) sputters and sparks. And Smith’s Donnelly, like some ex-pat James Brown, keeps threatening to make her final exit.

Gere will get notice for finally being paired with someone age appropriate. And, yes, he is still sexy after all these years without much in his acting arsenal compared to the surrounding Brits. Sit Dench and Smith together at a table talking, or set Dench and Nighy walking on a crowded street – cue the water buffalo — and the dialog hardly matters as they spout fortune cookie wisdom about aging and amorous behavior with such finesse and joy.

As The Second Best Marigold Hotel proves, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the warm bath movie, which has no pretentions to change cinema or critique colonialism. The comedy succeeds because the filmmakers know that, unlike Avis, they do not have to try harder, because effort kills humor. They just have to slip into that witty, welcoming sensibility of the original, deploying old pros Dench, Smith and Nighy and adding a pinch (and a few pelvic thrusts) of Gere.

Thelma Adams,

Sr. Editor, Film

March 4, 2014


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