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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ••

Second_Best_posterStarring: Judi DenchMaggie SmithBill Nighy
Director: John Madden
Screenplay: Ol Parker
Comedy/Drama, Rated: PG
Running Time: 122 minutes
Release Date: March 6, 2015


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, you and I never settle for second best. But in this case, we have no choice.

It’s true, this really was the Second-Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie.

The movie opens with Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) and Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) in San Diego, where they are trying to obtain financing for a second Marigold Hotel. The financing company informs them that an anonymous inspector will visit the first Marigold Hotel to assess the viability of a second hotel. Back in India, two new guests arrive separately at the hotel; one is Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) and the other is Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Greig). Sonny believes that Chambers is the anonymous inspector and gives him the best available room.

Meanwhile, there are several subplots to follow: Evelyn is offered a job but is worried that at 79 she may not have what it takes. Douglass is in love with Evelyn. Sonny’s wedding to Sunaina is in jeopardy. Guy, the American, has taken interest in Sonny’s mother. Madge is deciding between two suitors. Norman inadvertently takes out a contract on his girlfriend, Carol. So, it’s mayhem at the old Exotic Marigold once again.

Greg, at the risk of being a heartless curmudgeon, I have to say that The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (T2BEMH) is completely unnecessary. Admittedly, the first Marigold Hotel had a certain endearing sweetness that made it worth watching. This second installment bored me. The only nice thing I can say about the film is that it allowed me to catch up on some sleep.

Here’s the problem: Now that this movie is a “series”, it has the look and feel of The Love Boat or Fantasy Island. Sonny plays the role of Captain Stubing or Mr. Roarke, the proprietor of an exotic home base whose sole reason for existing is to bring lovers together through the fulfillment of some sort of fantasy. The whole premise is rather juvenile and I found it as vacuous and as unrealistic as the characters’ constant fawning over the aging Richard Gere’s supposed good looks.

I have to agree with you fully, Scott. One of the more charming elements of TBEMH (the first movie) was an introduction to India: the culture, the people, and the customs. This movie was strictly out for yucks. Your analogy to the Love Boat is quite apt, but dated. If I may offer this: T2BEMH is The Hangover for geriatrics.

If there is a hero in this story, it is Sonny. He starts out very brash and headstrong. He is jealous of his rich cousin (whom he thinks his fiance is attracted to). Sonny makes unwise business dealings and treats his guests badly as he fawns over the American. (If you’ve ever seen an episode of the British comedy Faulty Towers you’ll get the picture.) But through the love and mentoring of Muriel (Maggie Smith), Sonny becomes not only a better businessman, but a better man as well.

Well, Sonny is another problem for me. His inconsistency as a character defies believability. Never have I seen such a dumbass transform into a genius in just two hours. Seriously, the man does one stupid, immature thing after another for the first ¾ of the film, only to suddenly turn into a bright, charming, resourceful lad at the movie’s end. The narrator explains to us that Sonny may make mistakes but he always gets things right “when it matters”. I’m sorry, but it looked more to me like he always acts like a fool until the movie needs to wrap up, at which time he finally comes to his senses.

Bottom line is, the hero story lacks credibility to me. There are no real villains in the movie, although there is the rival love interest who causes a burning jealousy in Sonny. Another oppositional agent is the mysterious inspector who can potentially veto any plan to expand the hotel chain. Mostly what we have here is a hero amidst a larger ensemble cast of elderly characters who are trying to find themselves, or a lover, in an exotic location. All the actors do their job but none of them do it well enough to keep me awake.

Right, again, Scott. This is an ensemble cast and there is not much room for secondary characters. There’s the handsome and rich cousin who looks to take away Sonny’s bride. There’s the driver for miss Madge who has no lines to speak of. There’s Sonny’s mom who is just eye candy for Richard Gere. And that’s about it.

Another movie that comes to mind is Love, Actually. This is a number of barely interesting vignettes of stories tied together by the unifying theme of Sonny’s ineptitude. It just wasn’t enough to be interesting.

‘Nuff said, Greg. And good reference to Love, Actually. Let’s cut to the chase. T2BEMH has some of the charm and likeability of TBEMH but suffers from a fatal case of redundancy in the script and lack of credibility in the lead character. The film has its moments but cannot sustain any momentum and ultimately bores the audience with its Love Boat-like premise. This isn’t a bad movie but it is far from good. I’ll award it 2 Reels out of 5.

The hero of the story, Sonny, has not grown on me at all. In the first film, Sonny was an innocent kid whose naiveté was endearing. Now his childlike mannerisms annoy me and defy belief. His sudden transformation to maturity was not triggered by any pivotal moment or defining lesson; it came out of no where and seemed only to exist because the movie needed to end. I give our hero 1 Hero out of 5.

The supporting cast of aging all-star actors is fun to watch, despite the tepid script they were forced to work from. Everyone delivers a commendable performance, but no one truly stands out. Richard Gere’s perfect silver hair may be the star of the supporting cast, or at least the “silver lining” in an otherwise cloudy movie. Overall, I can see giving the cast a rating of 3 out of 5.

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This was a bad sequel of a nice little movie. It’s nice to see classic aging British movie stars put in a (potentially) final appearance on the big screen. But this movie was a snooze-fest. And I had to sit next the guy doing the snoozing. I award 2 out of 5 Reels.

I have to take issue with Sonny as the hero of the film. This was an ensemble film. Each pairing of characters had a little skit to perform, and Sonny and Muriel were no exception. In our book Reel Heroes: Volume 1 we identify a taxonomy of heroes and one of them is the ensemble. This takes on the shape of a family ensemble and a pretty boring one at that. I give them just 2 out of 5 Heroes.

The supporting cast, then, is the list of side characters like Sonny’s cousin, Sonny’s mom, and the limo driver. These were all very minor roles and not of interest. I give them 1 out of 5 cast points.

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