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British vets carry 'Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'
Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Diana Hardcastle star in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. - photo by Josh Terry
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the kind of movie that wouldnt work without its cast. Its an ensemble piece that tries to cram half a dozen storylines into two hours, and the result is a film that feels bloated and thin at the same time.

Yet the nature of its cast a group of celebrated British veterans manages to shield the films flaws, and Second Best delivers a good time for its audience.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a sequel to 2011s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the story of an Indian hotelier named Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) who created a haven for a colorful group of expatriate British pensioners. In this follow-up, Sonny is ready to take the next step in the development of his retirement empire.

Actually, hes taking a couple of next steps. In the first, Sonny is trying to find support to build a second hotel. To do so, he and Muriel (Maggie Smith), his tenant-turned-business partner, are lobbying the interests of an American developer named Ty Burley (David Strathairn). Burley has dispatched a hotel inspector to the Marigold, and Sonny suspects it is Guy Chambers (Richard Gere), a recent arrival who claims to be working on a novel.

The second step in Sonnys life is his pending marriage to Sunaina (Tina Desai). But thanks to his business pursuits and the threat of Kushal (Shazad Latif), a charismatic competitor who, according to Sonny, should be choking on the silver spoon in his mouth, wedded bliss feels light years away.

Thats plenty for a lighthearted film like this to deal with, but the Marigolds other tenants keep bringing additional courses to the table. Douglas (Bill Nighy) is wrestling with his affections for Evelyn (Judy Dench) while simultaneously fighting off the anglings of his estranged wife Jean (Penelope Wilton), who has arrived in town seeking a divorce. Madge (Celia Imrie) is juggling multiple suitors, and Norman (Ronald Pickup) is convinced that his girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle) is cheating on him. Muriel and Evelyn are considering job offers, and even Guy gets his own subplot when Sonnys mother (Lillete Dubey) catches his eye.

Somehow the narrative holds together, and some sincere moments offset the feeling of bloat that sets in over the films two hours. Its hard to complain too much about seeing the likes of Nighy and Dench in action.

The British actors may be carrying most of the narrative weight, but The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is awash in the vibrant colors of its Indian setting. The myriad stories weave through crowded markets and busy thoroughfares, and Indian music underscores and pulses through many scenes.

Ultimately, Second Best is exactly what youd expect it to be the next episode in the lives of the people you met in the first film. Theres plenty of charm and wit and character, and you can almost forgive the fact that one of the films primary storylines feels lifted from an old episode of John Cleeses Fawlty Towers TV show. Come to think of it, if theres to be a third best Marigold Hotel, it would be nice to have the Monty Python veteran on board.

The Second Best Marigold Hotel is rated PG for some profanity and mild sexual content.
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