Wow, what an unexpected treat that Wes Anderson dared to make his first sequel with a follow up to The Grand Budapest Hotel not even a year after the original hit screens. The timing should work out in his favor since there’s been all that Oscar-fueled publicity and the last movie made over $100 million worldwide. Clearly audiences are ready to dive back in to his ornate slapstick machine. This should be fun. What’s that? This is a sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? You mean that horrible retirement home exploitation drivel that felt like the cinematic equivalent of a stale glass of Camomile Tea. Goddamn it. This is going to be horrible…Ok, I’ve seen it now. I was right. It’s an abysmal waste of time and talent. Somehow it’s even worse than the last movie and that didn’t seem like a remote possibility two long n’ painful hours ago. I guess that’s a filmmaking achievement of some sort. Sigh…at least you didn’t have to suffer through it like I did, dear reader.
Yep, the whole gang of ancient British all-stars are back for another gently racist romp in India. A desperate Dev Patel continues to star and hopes that if he acts hard enough, he can somehow manufacture comedy and a moderately believable character that was never on the page. This time, he’s decided that the moderate success of his pensioners’ paradise deserves to be franchised, so he’s working on securing a second location with the help of Maggie Smith (whose business skills are apparently limited to crankiness). Bill Nighy and Judi Dench are back as well, continuing a tiresome “will they/won’t they” romantic routine that’s somehow supposed to feel like dramatic conflict. Celia Imrie returns, this time fighting off two separate romantic suitors who the audience are supposed to care about despite the fact that neither gets enough screen time to qualify as more than an extra. Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle also get wrapped up in some sort of ridiculous hired-murder plot simply because they were in the last movie so they are contractually obligated to be in this one too. Then because there aren’t enough pointless plotlines competing for attention, a thoroughly embarrassed Richard Gere pops up as an author to remind us all that he is indeed still alive. Well, Gere’s technically in the movie given that he speaks lines of dialogue in front of a camera, but he certainly didn’t put any effort into acting or anything like that. But to be fair, do you blame him?
If you’re curious exactly what went wrong with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the simplest answer is “everything.” It’s not as if the last tepid little movie left any threads dangling that desperately needed to be tied up. Nope, this sequel exists purely because the last movie made enough money to justify its production. All the actors unexpectedly signed on because they felt like having another paid holiday in India, so screenwriter Ol Parker and director John Madden faced the unenviable task of trying to manufacture a second feature length film from a premise that was t0o thin to sustain one movie. Rather than reinvent the series or try anything new, they just shoved all the familiar faces back into the familiar locations and had them reenact slight variations on scenes from the last script hoping that no one would notice. None of the subplots competing for attention offer much in the way of drama, tension, or intrigue that could pay off with a climax. So instead the filmmakers shoved in a wedding that would at least feel climatic since it required a bunch of fanciful stuff to happen backed by loud music. That should count, right? Worst off all, the very particular brand of gentle British racism that defined the last flick rears it’s ugly head again. This is a movie that suggests that the Indian people can be industrious and successful provided that they let British people who know better take charge and tell them what to do. You know, because that theory worked out so well back in the colonial days.
The hardest aspect of watching either Best Exotic Marigold failure is seeing a talented cast who should know better wasted. Now, don’t get me wrong. Judi Dench is incapable of bad acting, Bill Nighy can make even the most pathetic joke seem funny, and watching a cranky Maggie Smith is one of life’s great pleasures. So there are at least fleeting moments where you’ll remember why you like all of the recognizable faces. However, it’s hard to get even minor moments of pleasure out of watching this cast when the film containing them is so offensively dull and pointless. With any luck, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will disappear just as suddenly as it arrived. Certainly it’s not fit for human consumption. However, I thought the same thing about the last movie and somehow it was a minor hit. So who knows? Maybe, I’ll be forced to watch the concluding chapter of the world’s most irritating trilogy soon enough. Nothing’s impossible in a world where a movie this irredeemably abysmal somehow secured a wide release.