Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

PLOT: As Sonny (Dev Patel) prepares for his wedding, the residents of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel are rocked by the arrival of a new American guest (Richard Gere) who may have been sent by a corporation looking to help the hotel expand throughout India.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. It was a thoroughly pleasant piece of summer counter-programming, anchored by a cast that was so good together they seemed like THE EXPENDABLES of British character actors. Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, etc, those are some pretty impressive names and they meshed wonderfully together. It’s no surprise the film made hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide and it’s even less of a surprise that they’ve re-assembled the survivors of the first film for a sequel.

Alas there’s a problem. If you’ve seen the original, you’ll know that by the time the credits rolled pretty much everything was resolved. Nighy had left his cruel wife (Penelope Wilton – who returns for an extended cameo) to take up with Dench’s kindly Evelyn, while Smith’s irritable Muriel finally found some happiness by going to work for the excitable Sonny, who, for his part, got the girl of his dreams. All’s well that ends well. So where does a sequel go?

The answer, sadly, is pretty much nowhere. Basically, what director John Madden and writer Ol Parker have done is just replay all the conflicts from the old film, with essentially no new compelling threads to make this worth watching. So, we get to see Nighy once again fumbling around, too shy to tell Dench he wants to be with her, while she essentially does the same thing. Gere basically fills in for Wilkinson as the eligible bachelor, although he doesn’t really fit in with the gang and isn’t given much to do other than look handsome and flirt with the ladies. Other plotlines are ludicrous, such as a dazzlingly dumb one where hotel stud Norman (Ronald Pickup) accidently puts a hit on his girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle) – whoops.

Poor Dev Patel fares especially bad here. He skirted the line between being funny and annoying in the first one, but here he goes way overboard as the perpetually mugging Sonny. That’s too bad, as Patel can be excellent given the right material (this week’s CHAPPIE). The only person who really comes off well is Maggie Smith, who – of course – gets all the best lines (like a foul-mouthed Dowager Countess). She also has a nicely bittersweet arc, and is the only one here who really gets to shine.

It’s a shame that they couldn’t leave well enough alone as SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is as unnecessary a sequel as I’ve ever seen. While I do commend Madden for not going all COCOON: THE RETURN and tugging at heartstrings by killing off half the cast, it’s still a dull film enlivened only by the Indian location photography and the always excellent cast (most of them can’t help but be good). I have no doubt this will make a bundle (it’s already the top film at the UK box office) but hopefully we’ll never have to see what the THIRD BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL will look like.

Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel




About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.