'Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' Stays True To Its Name

Mar 6, 2015
Originally published on March 6, 2015 6:04 pm

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench reunite in Jaipur, India, for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which came to theaters Friday. Despite a stellar cast, the sequel to the surprise 2012 hit comedy, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is second best.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

When Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy and Judi Dench first checked into "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," nobody in the film industry expected much. But their East Indian adventures proved so popular, they've extended their stay. The sequel, which opens today, is called "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Our movie critic Bob Mondello has reservations.

BOB MONDELLO: The hotel's as ramshackle as ever, still a far cry from the plush retirement community its British pensioners expected when they came to Jaipur. But now that cranky Maggie Smith is keeping the books, expansion is in the wind, an inspector is on the way and obsequious manager Dev Patel is in overdrive.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL")

DEV PATEL: (As Sonny Kapoor) Ladies and gentlemen, this is the great Guy Chambers, as welcome as he is vagrant. Now I shall bring you food guaranteed to tickle even your most talented taste buds.

MAGGIE SMITH: (As Muriel Donnelly) Wow, that was thorough. Find any polyps up there?

PATEL: (As Sonny Kapoor) He's the one.

SMITH: (As Muriel Donnelly) What one?

PATEL: (As Sonny Kapoor) Our evaluator.

SMITH: (As Muriel Donnelly) What's your evidence?

PATEL: (As Sonny Kapoor) The nose knows, Mrs. Donnelly.

SMITH: (As Muriel Donnelly) Oh, right, so that's bollocks then.

MONDELLO: Much of the attraction of the "Marigold" movies is hearing Dame Maggie and her esteemed colleagues say things like that. They all have gravitas to spare at this point and seem comfortable lending it to dialogues so mild it seems on the verge of floating away.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL")

JUDI DENCH: (As Evelyn Greenslade) Sometimes it seems to me that the difference between what we want and what we fear is a width of an eyelash.

MONDELLO: This is the film's other dame, Judi Dench, in a scene that winks at rumors that she and Dame Maggie are rivals off-screen.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL")

SMITH: (As Muriel Donnelly) I'm sorry, were you talking to me?

DENCH: (As Evelyn Greenslade) Oh, the hearing's gone then, obviously.

SMITH: (As Muriel Donnelly) Yeah, along with your backbone.

DENCH: (As Evelyn Greenslade) I don't know why I tell you anything.

SMITH: (As Muriel Donnelly) 'Cause I'm older and wiser.

DENCH: (As Evelyn Greenslade) Nineteen days old.

MONDELLO: For the record, that reverses the actual difference in their ages.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL")

SMITH: (As Muriel Donnelly) That's the entire lifespan of a wasp.

MONDELLO: Imagine that line without her delivery and it just evaporates, no? There wasn't anything terribly surprising about the first film, and fans presumably don't want to be surprised at this one, so what they got before, they get again. Dench is still resisting that the stammering courtship of Bill Nighy. Celia Imrie's still ogling every passing pair of pants, this time including those on silver-fox Richard Gere. And Dev Patel is still Mr. Malapropping his way through a part designed to make his elders appear fonts of wisdom. Nothing subtle here, but then, they're only trying for "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.