A scene from “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

The first movie of this series – released in the USA in 2012 was very well-received and could have been described as a one hit wonder except that its sequel, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” opened in theatres across the United States during the first week of March 2015. The film has continued in the very capable hands of Director John Madden and a script written by Ol Parker. And some might even find this sequel better than the first. “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” was viewed for this review at a special screening for the media, Feb. 9, in Sacramento. Ras Siddiqui presents a review.

Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) is back with almost the entire cast from the original film. This is as much Sonny’s story as it is that of the geriatric residents of his seemingly dysfunctional hotel in Jaipur, India.

We open with Sonny and his partner Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) speeding in a convertible on Route 66 in America heading to a meeting where they will seek funding assistance for Sonny’s dream of a franchise-expansion of his concept hotel.  While trying to decide who will do all the talking both Sonny and Muriel make their pitch to would be financiers and right off we are exposed to Sonny’s naiveté and Muriel’s English roots where tea and its preparation reign supreme!

Lilette Dubey and Richard Gere (r) in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Lilette Dubey and Richard Gere (r) in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Next, we jump to Jaipur, India, to the struggling local British expatriate club that is watering down the drinks to make ends meet (the grandeur of empires does not last forever).  And soon we meet a tour guide who knows very little about local history and depends on the direct help of a local kid on computer who instructs him on what to say (remotely by earphones).  Together, they produce some painfully funny moments where the guide is trying to do his job while his instructional support often disappears.  And then there is the Marigold Hotel itself which is almost full and also full of some of the most interesting senior citizens one could ever meet.

Sonny has a great deal going on in his life beyond dreams of business expansion. His upcoming marriage to Sunaina (Tina Desai) who is pushing their wedding preparations which include Bollywood style dancing where Sonny gets touchy because their friend Kushal (Shazad Latif) always upstages him and makes him feel inadequate. For Sonny, the straw that breaks the camel’s back is when Kushal buys the property that he was eyeing for the expansion of the Marigold Hotel chain. Sonny considers this a stab in the back even though Kushal did not even know that he was interested in that property and even agrees to partner with him as a gesture of peace.  But Sonny is not convinced easily.

A late presentation of opening credits is also preceded by auto-Rickshaw (Tuk Tuk) rides while inebriated and the fear of scorpions both real and imaginary.  And there are pancake breakfasts thrown into meetings at a choice location too. The movie is certainly rich in the pursuit of romance no matter what one’s age.  The senior male characters here — Norma Cousins (Ronald Pickup) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) are not powerful here but still convey their message.  And then there is a younger male Guy (Richard Gere) who takes inter-cultural romance to the next level as he succeeds in his pursuit of Mrs. Kapoor (Lilette Dubey),  Sonny’s widowed mother.

Tina Desai and Dev Patel (r) in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Tina Desai and Dev Patel (r) in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

The success of this movie rests within the colorful background of Jaipur and the leading lady characters.  Maggie Smith’s portrayal of Muriel Donnelly is the first to grab a viewer’s attention and at times simply amazing. But powerfully naughty Madge (played by Celia Imrie) also shines here as she is busy juggling more than one (Indian) suitor and makes some interesting choices along the way. Left or right or is she about to go straight too? And last but not least Evelyn (Judi Dench) who steals this movie in more ways than one.

Evelyn is sought after for her expertise in fabrics and her ability to negotiate better pricing. Her new job takes her to Mumbai where, with the help of an assistant, she pulls off a great deal from a businessman who intended to gouge her with very high pricing because of her obvious foreign background. This bargaining episode makes for one of the most humorous parts of the movie.  Judi Dench’s performance just like that of Maggie Smith is top notch throughout this film.

Overall, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has a great deal going for it in spite of the fact that the newness or novelty of the story is no longer present as it was in the first movie. But one would not hesitate to recommend it because the stories of the residents of the hotel are better developed. The significance of the daily morning “Roll Call” is carried throughout the film. The main characters are at the sunset of their lives and represent the legacy of the old British Empire. Jaipur is as colorful as ever in the setting and the music is certainly appealing.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars