God bless the Brits. Or at least British actors of a certain age. They can rescue even the most tiresome of films and make it a thousand times better.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise hit in 2012 earning some $136 million which was quite a bit more than its meager $10 million budget. It was about a random group of British seniors who decide to spend their golden years living inexpensively in India. They come to the titular hotel based upon its fancy webpage, but find out that it is quite less than they expected save for the energetic and ever so hopeful proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel.) Of course, they all have various adventures. Of course, they all come to love the place.
It was a charming and delightful little film. Mostly because it starred a virtual who’s who of British cinema including Dame Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, and Ronald Pickup. All but Wilkinson are back for the sequel.
That’s still a mighty big cast and without having to do big introductory scenes this time the film struggles with finding a suitable reason to exist. It's ostensibly centered around Sonny’s upcoming wedding and its three acts are all named for it (one big reception, one family reception, and the wedding itself.) Apparently feeling this wasn’t enough to base a film on, writer Ol Parker gives every single one of his characters a biggish storyline, which makes his film about half an hour longer than it has any need of being.
On top of all that, we’ve also got Richard Gere playing a hotel inspector who has the say on whether or not there will be a second hotel in Sonny’s burgeoning empire. It's all way too much to take in, or care about. Were it not for the actors, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel would be something even Lifetime would be embarrassed over.
Ah, but that’s the thing, those actors are in it, and they are really good at their jobs. Everyone of them is so delightfully charming and clearly enjoying themselves that it's easy to forgive the film of its shortcomings of plot and overdone storylines. Add to that considerable star wattage some gorgeous cinematography of India and you’ve got a a really rather wonderful, if light-weight and crammed full of plot, movie.
The video quality is mostly wonderful. It was shot digitally with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.39:1. This version of India (one that I suspect doesn’t quite exist in real life) is remarkably clean, not overcrowded and utterly vibrant with thousands of bright colors shining in every corner. It looks gorgeous. The details come out crisp and clean and the colors really pop. The audio likewise is quite good. This isn’t really a film one comes to discuss the power of its audio tracks, but the score is filled with really boisterous Indian music, which all sounds quite good without ever hindering the understanding of the dialog.
Extras are plenty slim, consisting mainly of some very short clips of the cast and crew discussing various aspects of making the movie. Plus, a few trailers and a photo gallery.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doesn’t break any molds. It doesn’t even stretch the conventions of its story type, and rather bathes in its own tropes. There are way, way too many storylines wandering about its beautifully shot landscapes. And yet, it's still quite delightful. Put that many marvelous actors together and you’re bound to find something fun to watch.