“The Exotic Marigold Hotel” was a surprise sleeper hit, a veritable honey pot for older cinema goers, with film studios final realising that people over fourteen do actually enjoy going to the “pictures”.
No doubt lured by easy built in audience dollars, here we have a sequel. Arguably somewhat redundant but here all the same.
The surviving cast from the first film are back, a little bit older and on occasion marginally wiser. They are joined by new characters who may/may not be undercover hotel inspectors and a possible investor (Richard Gere, Tamsin Greig and David Straithairn respectively)
The loose plot centres around the serially optimistic Sonny Kappor (Dev Patel) and his belief the Marigold brand can extend to a second hotel, hence of the title of the movie. To allow this expansion, he will need investors, leading to the potential “mystery shopper” inspectors.
To add to Sonny’s usual frenetic state, he is planning to marry his lifelong sweetheart “Sunaina” (Tina Desai) and all that entails. Elaborate plans are made for a traditional Indian wedding with all the movie trimmings. The path of true love and Sonny’s business hopes will not run smooth of course but the chance of any movie leaving out a lavish Indian wedding from the running time, would be slim indeed.
Those hotel regulars that remain steadfastly above ground, checked each morning by the signature roll call, all add gentle personal growth. Whether through a late blossoming business career, choosing between potential suitors or a tentative ‘sunset romance’.
As you would expect with this stellar cast and likeable characters, there is much to enjoy. Maggie Smith continues to fire acerbic bon mots at every turn and Bill Nighy and Judi Dench show there is dignity and gravitas within the overall slightly comedic tone.
The script conspires Gere to pursue a somewhat unlikely infatuation and he never looks particularly comfortable in the role. No doubt he is just happy to be on location enjoying one of his favourite destinations.
The cast and crew are clearly having a great time and this easily rubs off on an undemanding audience. The colours, sights and feel of a moderately airbrushed India are all well conveyed but overall this does feel like a re-run.
One would hope the expansion of the hotel remains at two but box office returns might suggest foundations will soon be in place for a possible third adventure at some point.
Director John Madden plays it largely safe with a gentle sequel to the hugely successful original.
The characters move on a little, the world is a safe place, great actors enjoy themselves on location, which overall provides undemanding enjoyment for the target audience.
Those expecting a little more, may wish to seek a more adventurous hotel after their first visit.