Charming ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ Bucks Botched Sequel Trend

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CHICAGO – Motivated by financial necessity, sequels often mitigate business risk and satisfy studio executives by riding on the coattails of a previous fan base with brand equity. But business aside, to moviegoers the follow-up product so often feels like it “wasn’t nearly as good as the first” or didn’t need to return at all.

Rarely do we find films that are an exception to this unfortunate rule, but when we do, they are celebrated for doing twice what many films can’t even do once. And so is the recent case with the naturally charming “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. While the story didn’t need to continue and could have ended in May 2012 – when Fox Searchlight’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” won over audiences worldwide – mostly the same usual suspects have returned to inspire you to laugh, think, feel and escape all over again.

Dev Patel and Tina Desai in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Dev Patel (left) and Tina Desai in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.
Image credit: Fox Searchlight

The first film was a commercial success – having earned $137 million on a $10 million product budget – but the second actually feels like it was motivated by more than just money. There actually is a new story to tell and the cast feels like they want to be there – and not just for yet another paycheck for many grey-haired actors who don’t need the money.

Perhaps even more impressive, the second film drops down to a “PG” rating from a “PG-13” rating in 2012 without losing any of its appeal. Here is a film that doesn’t need sex, foul language and violence to transport audiences to a world they will love not only once but twice.

Director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” “The Debt”) and writer Ol Parker (who hasn’t written anything else you’d know except for the 2012 film) team up on the second film once again with the all-star cast Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire,” 2015’s “Chappie”), Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere, David Strathairn and Celia Imrie.

Tina Desai and Dev Patel in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Tina Desai (left) and Dev Patel in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.
Image credit: Fox Searchlight

The film epitomizes the definition of charming even down to its unpretentious title. Carrying forward its brand loyalty, the title is honest to a fault and tells you exactly what to expect. And audiences are already awarding the film with what it deserves. So far, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” has grossed nearly $30 million worldwide and it earned a No. 3 weekend rank with distribution to only 1,573 theaters. The non-mainstream film was only bested this weekend by the larger-scale films “Focus” and “Chappie,” which were both released into twice as many theaters.

Dev Patel unforgettably anchors the film as the high-energy Sonny Kapoor. He owns the successful The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel primarily for senior citizens and their extended stays. When faced with the business need to expand amid wedding plans with his fiancé (Tina Desai as Sunaina), Sonny must decide whether he should throw away his pride and partner with a guy he’s jealous of (Shazad Latif as Kushal) or go forth as a lone wolf.

Expanding means just what the title says: opening The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But while Sonny nears clarity on his expansionist dream, the film is propelled by the burdens and the blessings of growing old, the reminder that it’s never too late to find love and the adventure of exploring a far-away land.

Dev Patel and Richard Gere in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Dev Patel (left) and Richard Gere in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.
Image credit: Fox Searchlight

The multi-faceted story is as rich as its colorful imagery. Ol Parker manages to do it all while staying entirely family friendly, funny and Bill Cosby-like clean. Each character is memorable and critical to the success of this ensemble dramedy from Maggie Smith as the grumpy old woman to Judi Dench and Bill Nighy as the cutest old couple there ever was to Richard Gere as the undercover hotel inspector (so says Sonny’s intuitive “nose”).

There isn’t a weak actor in the film and such a strong “A”-list ensemble successfully makes up for some of its plot holes and predictable outcomes. As these stories weave together – each with his or her own journey and destination – many culminate in ah hah! moments delivered by well-written lines.

For example, there’s the result of learning how simple it is to choose a love you’re afraid of: “I will wait, until I can wait no more, because you’re worth waiting for.” “In the end, it’s simple: all it takes is saying yes, that this is what I want, with someone who wants it too.” “You weren’t my first, but I want you to be my last.”

Maggie Smith in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Maggie Smith in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.
Image credit: Fox Searchlight

Also, there’s coming to terms with change and the fear of letting go: “We have no idea what will happen. Don’t try to control it. Just let go. There’s no present like the time.” And a line at the end that speaks wisely about endings: “There’s no such thing as an ending; just a place where you leave the story.”

But what “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” doesn’t do is blaze bold new roads. Even though the film is just as enjoyable as the first, it uses the formula and doesn’t bravely stray from it.

The decision feels like it’s intentionally trying to satisfy a repeat audience rather than attract new ones. At just above the 2-hour mark, the non-action, non-CGI film also tends to drag. While filmmakers often have a hard time putting aside their ego to scale back, cutting about 20 minutes would have eliminated the drag so some of this film’s narrative fluff could have flown more smoothly.

“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” stars Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere, David Strathairn, Celia Imrie, Shazad Latif and Tina Desai from director John Madden and writer Ol Parker. The film, which has a running time of 122 minutes and opened on March 6, 2015, is rated “PG” for some language and suggestive comments.

HollywoodChicago.com publisher Adam Fendelman

By ADAM FENDELMAN
Publisher
HollywoodChicago.com
adam@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2015 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com LLC

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