One wedding, one divorce, two fraught business deals, and a still-impressive ensemble cast populate The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a certified follow-up to 2012's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. When, in a pre-title sequence, Maggie Smith's Muriel Donnelly calls a cup of tea (which, like the film, won't be everyone's) "tepid nonsense," it's fair to wonder if we're in for two hours of the same. And though it may be so, returning screenwriter Ol Parker and returning director John Madden keep a collective eye on the quality control, delivering an amiable sequel that will surely please fans of the first film.
Whereas the first film derived from a novel, Parker's screenplay this time is original, and he does a fair job of loosening and fraying the bows he neatly tied three years ago. All of the still-alive characters from the first film return, played by the same actors, and the sequel proposes romantic complications for the couples while offering up some fresh romance for currently unattached "old" and new faces.
Not much surprises here, but the opening shot certainly does by placing Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) and Muriel—co-managers of an Indian hotel "for the Elderly and Beautiful"—in an iconic American landscape. Their overseas jaunt sets up the investment consideration of an American hotel magnate (David Straitharn), who promises to send an undercover hotel inspector to check out the Jaipur establishment and a potential second property. That promise serves as the spine for this mostly conventional light farce, with Sonny nearly unraveling while trying to please the presumed inspector (Richard Gere's Guy Chambers) and not ruin, through inattention, his pending wedding to Sunaina (Tina Desai).
Eight months have passed since the events of the first film, and Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) have gotten off on wrong feet in their relationship (it doesn't help that Douglas is still married to Penelope Wilton's Jean). Meanwhile, Sonny's mother (Lillete Dubey) and Madge (Celia Imrie) find romances in unexpected places, and Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) troubleshoot their relationship in an irreverent subplot that adds a touch of tartness to the confection. As for Muriel, her withering wit remains intact, even in the face of new business and personal crises.
Though Gere's American twinkle makes for a slightly jarring addition to this essentially British comedy, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel shows little strain in maintaining its cute factor, thanks to the drily winning personalities of the likes of Smith, Dench, Nighy, and the comic ebullience of Patel. Believe it or not, Parker quietly clears room for a "one last ride" sequel if this film performs well (and why wouldn't it?). At any rate, as the film's carpe-diem message goes, "There's no present like the time."
Fox books your stay in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in a Blu-ray special edition with ample picture and sound quality and some added value in the form of bonus features. The hi-def transfer is clean and crisp, capturing the film's theatrical look. Black level and contrast contribute to the solidity of the image, and if color isn't always entirely natural, that's a part of the film's picture-postcard visual scheme. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is without fault, with clear, well-prioritized dialogue rising above urban bustle and full-bodied orchestration and local-color music nicely spread across the surround channels. Though a welcome archive of many of the film's promotional materials, the suite of bonus features here amounts to nothing more than some brief EPK-style featurettes--“Filming in India,” ”Returning to the Marigold Hotel,” “The Marigold Wedding,” and “Blossoming Relationships”--and a Photo Gallery, all in HD.
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