“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated PG for mild epithets and suggestive material
In English and Hindi with subtitles
Running time: 122 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
When we last saw Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), he had just proposed to his thoroughly-modern girlfriend Sunaina (Tina Desai), much to the chagrin of his meddling, more traditional mother (Lillete Dubey). The ambitious young entrepreneur had also landed the funds to renovate his ramshackle hotel with the help of Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith), one of the residents of the retirement community.
At the point of departure, we find Sonny (accompanied by Mrs. Donnelly) en route to San Diego where he hopes to interest an executive (David Strathairn) with the Evergreen Corporation in investing in the second old folks home he hopes to open. After all, the first is now flourishing and practically filled to capacity.
Meanwhile, back in India, Sunaina is squarely focused on their impending engagement ceremony, also known as a Sagai. In the groom-to-be’s conspicuous absence, she’s asked Kush (Shazad Latif), a friend of the family, to fill in as a dance partner, so she can practice the elaborately-choreographed routine she plans to perform at the party with Sonny. It is subtly hinted that this handsome hunk might pose a threat, given Sonny’s continued preoccupation with business matters upon his return to the subcontinent.
That is only one of several storylines in a romance-driven sequel which unfolds more like a daytime soap opera than a fully fleshed-out feature film. Scene after scene is simply a setup for another transparent love triangle.
As she checks into the hotel, Lavinia Beach (Tamsin Grieg) has her head turned by a fellow new guest (Richard Gere), but Guy only has eyes for Sonny’s widowed mom. Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie), a pretty British pensioner, can’t decide between the two, filthy-rich Indian suitors she’s dating simultaneously. And Doug (Bill Nighy) has grown fond enough of Evelyn (Judi Dench) to commit, though he hasn’t yet divorced his estranged wife (Penelope Wilton) waiting in the wings. And so forth.
The irrepressible Sonny serves as a master of ceremonies of sorts supposedly tying all these loose strands together. Unfortunately, because he’s more of a clown this go-round, the film feels like a joke-to-joke farce not intended to be taken seriously.
A pleasant, if predictable, romantic romp laced with far more mirth than sophistication or substance.