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Rated 2.99 stars
by 276 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Second Time Around Works
by Frank Wilkins

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotelís biggest accomplishment may be that it dispels the widely accepted notion that sequels rarely ever work. Though it lacks the same touch of surprise and magic that endeared the original to millions of unsuspecting fans, The Second contains enough of the same adoring elements to match the originalís entertaining balance of irreverent wit and bittersweet charm.

The action picks up with hotel owner Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) and co-manager Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) traveling to America with hopes of securing seed money to open a second Exotic Marigold Hotel location in India. Naturally, their proposal is met with a healthy dose of skepticism, but with the promise of a visit from an unknown inspector, Sonny and Muriel keep their hopes alive.

Meanwhile, back in Jaipur, each of the hotelís regular tenants has a subplot to add, including Evelyn (Judi Dench) who, along with Douglas (Bill Nighy), have ventured into the work force, while Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are testing the waters of an exclusive relationship, and Madge (Celie Imrie) is navigating the advances of two eligible suitors. But the filmís main thrust and its unifying theme of family comes from the impending wedding of Sonny to his fiancee Sunaina, played by Tina Desai. The three stages of the traditional Indian wedding play out as the filmís opening, second, and final acts.

There are a lot of moving parts here and credit goes to returning director John Madden who keeps everything interesting and gives equal time to each of the filmís many subplots, while only occasionally losing the storyís momentum. The excitement level of act two dips slightly, but itís all in preparation for the finaleís rousing Bollywood dance number.

Like the original, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will appeal mostly to an older crowd because of the age of its cast members and its story about the lives and relationships of people who are well into their sunset years. The wedding thread and closing dance, while adding a much needed spark to the proceedings, will do nothing to broaden the filmís appeal to a younger crowd. Itís a mature story targeted directly at those who liked the original.

The addition of Richard Gere -- whose character may be hiding a big secret -- adds a much needed punch as he pursues Sonnyís widowed mother, played by the delightful Lillete Dubey. Many will remember her comic relief role from the first film and appreciate that sheís given a chance to enlarge her character here. She builds upon the filmís theme of the possibilities that never stop in life.

Standing out in their roles are Smith and Patel. While many will undoubtedly be put off by Patelís Jerry Lewis puerility, it canít be denied heís bursting with a charm and charisma that plays nicely against Smithís crabby candor. The addition of Tamsin Greig and David Strathairn was a stroke of casting genius and only elevates the already lofty level of great acting on display.

The title of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel plays clever triple duty. It recognizes the movieís sequel status while also providing an astute nod to the major plot point of the hotelís expansion. Unfortunately, it is also an unaware critique and comparison of itself to its progenitor. Regardless, if you liked the first one, you owe it to yourself to continue the journey with a bunch of old friends. You can check out any time you like, but you wonít want to leave.

(Released by Fox Searchlight Productions and rated ďPGĒ for language and suggestive comments.)

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