There is still nothing like a couple of Dames—if their names are Maggie and Judi
Admitting when one is wrong is a distasteful and unpleasant chore. I once had to explain to my grandparents why my 5-year-old brother was crying and holding his crotch after only moments before daring him to pee on the electric fence behind the tool shed. I managed to choke out an apology between belts of laughter.
Or the time I “mistakenly” drank too much while touring Scotland and ended up with a bout of alcohol poisoning…and claimed it was food poisoning. The bus driver knew better and in his thick, Scottish accent exclaimed while nudging me with his elbow, “Heey would ya like te share a wee pint wid me?” followed by a wink, wink.
OK, so I am just now admitting that was wrong, but at least I admitted it. Right?
The original sleeper hit film “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” told the story of seven Brits in the winter of their lives who agree to outsource their retirement to a hotel located in Jaipur, India. They are lured with false promises and photoshopped brochures promoting a luxurious retreat for “the elderly and beautiful.” With each retiree’s funds in shambles and with the knowledge that the cost of living in India is a fraction of what it is in the UK, it’s off to Jaipur.
Upon arrival, Sonny, Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”), greets the guests and wittily attempts to convince everyone that the missing doors, nonfunctional phones and avian inhabitants are all simply part of the hotel’s charm. Over the course of two hours, each character embraces India’s spicy and vibrant culture while cultivating new friendships and romance.
The sequel, “The Second Exotic Marigold Hotel,” begins with Sonny barking roll call at the retirees as he ticks them off the list in order to ensure that no one has journeyed to that big hotel in the sky during the night. By now he and Muriel (Dame Maggie Smith), have successfully resurrected the hotel and are now seeking financial support for an expansion—The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The pair travel to the US to solicit money from a potential backer played by David Strathairn. When asked about her trip to the US, Muriel snidely remarks, “I went with low expectations and came back disappointed.”
I would not say that I was completely disappointed by this film. However, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is just that—second best. It cannot compare to the seamless storytelling of the first movie, the immediate connection to the characters, nor the medium pacing that saw the viewer’s attention through till the end. Instead, the plot lines managed to get tangled at times.
Some of the characters’ personalities were amplified to a level that reached annoying. Rather than a nice blend of young and old, the retirees’ stories and that of the youthful Sonny and his fiancée were competing for first place in an exhausting tug o’ war. And the ending left me scratching my head.
When word of a sequel hits the street, I am always skeptical. Unless it is a Hollywood blockbuster such as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy or the original “Star Wars” movies, I want nothing to do with it. Examples of movies that should have never generated a follow-up include but certainly are not limited to “The Matrix” (everyone who watched and swore by the second and third installments were “Matrix” loyalists only) and “Bridget Jones’ Diary” (I admit it…I loved the first one as I am a perpetually single person who burns cookies and sings to horrible ’80s music while drinking.)
With that said, I entered the theater with my “glass is half empty” attitude—yet despite all of the drawbacks I felt hampered the movie—I was wrong. I still walked away feeling a bit warm and fuzzy toward the cast and the message they attempted to convey: It is never too late to start anew.