Rating: 5 out of 10
Dev Patel as Sonny Kapoor
Directed by John Madden
Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), owner of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, India, is to be married to his girlfriend Sunaina in mere days, but at the same time, he’s trying to expand into a new hotel along with his business partner Mrs. Donnelly (Maggie Smith). Meanwhile, the residents of the hotel are dealing with their own issues of love and mortality.
You might not remember the ensemble comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that came out a few years ago, but chances are your mother, or more likely your grandmother, will remember it well. To your elderly parents or grandparents, the gathering of Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy with actors like Ronald Pickup and Penelope Wilton could very well be their equivalent to Marvel’s The Avengers.
That said, we better pray that Avengers: Age of Ultron is better than what director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and his cast get up to in this sequel that seems like such an incredibly forced money grab that it’s shocking the entire cast agreed to come back. Yes, every single one of them. That’s not to say that they’re doing their best work and some really great actors who will remain nameless (Bill Nighy) give performances that are just plain embarrassing at times. Then again, what do you expect from a movie that suffers from the same problem as many sequels where there just aren’t enough ideas to keep things going for a second movie?
But first, we should take a roll call, just like Dev Patel’s overly-excitable Sonny, the hotel’s proprietor, does every day in what amounts to a running joke about the hotel’s clientele being so old they could die at any moment. It’s a pretty tasteless joke that would have been made worse if any of the actors actually did pass away before the movie’s release.
Like I mentioned, everyone is back including Judi Dench as Evelyn, who has been building quite a career for herself in India, while Bill Nighy’s love-lorn Douglas is having trouble finding a way to let her know how he feels. Sex-starved Madge (Celia Imrie) is trying to juggle two wealthy lovers while Norman is trying to find a happy balance in his relationship with Carol, but more on that storyline later. One already needs a scorecard to keep a track of all the characters and their stories even before Richard Gere shows up as a mysterious guest named Guy Chambers, whom Sonny thinks is an inspector sent by a hotel chain he’s hoping will fund his planned expansion.
The filmmakers behind this sequel knew better than to try to reinvent the wheel, but most of the time, it doesn’t seem like they’re even trying, creating obvious subplots and bits that attempt to get laughs but mostly fall flat. For instance, Norman expressing interest in seeing other women and inadvertently putting a hit on Carol while drunkenly explaining his desire to a cab driver really isn’t particularly strong, and it’s quickly discarded.
Then there’s the whole subplot featuring Gere, a new addition to the cast at the relatively young age of 65. Sonny is freaking out about Guy possibly being an inspector so he gives him special treatment—even when he starts courting Sonny’s lovely mother. At the same time, we’re introduced to Tamsin Greig’s Lavinia Beach, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there may be a mistaken identity at work, although it does go differently than expected.
Probably the most bothersome aspect of the movie is watching Dev Patel trying to take on way more than he can handle with a role that carries so much of the movie. Between Sonny trying to build his business and getting in trouble with his fiancée Sunaina by not focusing on their wedding plans, he also is given a rival both in business and for the heart of his woman in the good-looking Kushal.
Amidst all that weak storytelling, Dench stands out, really giving her all to a role that seems to have more depth than many of the others around her, maybe because she actually has something more to do than just flirting or sleeping around, which is essentially what all the other characters are doing. Still, it’s a shame seeing the two actors who were so brilliant in “Notes on a Scandal” reduced to doing slapstick bits.
One can’t place all the blame on director John Madden for this mess, because he knows how to use the cast and make the most of what he’s working with, making a glossy-looking film that makes India look like a far more appealing place than it probably is. But it’s all over the place in terms of tone, and the fact that none of the actors are natural comedians means they need to do things that would normally be below actors of their caliber to try to make things funny. Ol Parker’s screenplay does little to try elevate itself to match the talent they’ve gathered for the film.
Granted, the movie may start to grow on you as the storylines start converging, but that’s mainly thanks to the inclusion of party scenes and the type of Bollywood dance spectacles we’ve come to expect from any movie set in India. Again, originality and innovation don’t seem to be anything the filmmakers were aiming for as a goal.
The Bottom Line:
Fans of the original movie may be more forgiving of the weak storytelling and the awkward performances that make up this lackluster sequel, but it would be a major shame if this ends up being the last movie of any of these great acting veterans.