'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel': What the Critics Are Saying

The sequel to the 2012 film brings back Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel and introduces a new character played by Richard Gere.

Brits Maggie Smith and Judi Dench lead a prestigious cast in this follow-up to the 2012 sleeper hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie and newcomer Richard Gere round out the rest of the cast.

Both films were directed by John Madden and written by Ol Parker and center around a retirement hotel in Jaipur, India. In the sequel, the hotel’s manager (Patel) seeks to open a second establishment for expat residents to spend their golden years.

The Fox Searchlight picture is expected to open to a tidy $8 million plus, which is a nice outlook for a specialty film screening at only 1,400 locations.

Read what top critics are saying about The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:

The Hollywood Reporter’s Leslie Felperin writes in her review that “the script by Parker (who also wrote the first film, an adaptation of a novel by Deborah Moggach) has lots of plates to juggle and parallelisms to establish as each duo bickers or misunderstands each other in contrived, synchronized fashion, making for a set of narrative hurdles as repetitive as an Olympic track event. Fans who feel invested in the characters are unlikely to mind, however, and will probably go away satisfied with the excessively tidy way each subplot is resolved.” However, “the screenplay does an only so-so job of knitting all the subplots together in time for the big, colorful, Monsoon Wedding-style nuptials at the end.”

Additionally, “this sequel seems to have been made with half an eye on the South Asian arthouse market, which would explain why it improves on the first film by giving the Indian characters stronger storylines, not just for Sonny [Patel] and Sunaina [Tina Desai as Sonny’s girlfriend] but also for Sonny's mother Mrs. Kapoor, played with touching dignity by major local star Lillete Dubey (The Lunchbox, Kal Ho Naa Ho)…all these elements play like an attempt to get inside Indian culture rather than looking at it from outside as some ineluctably mysterious "other."”

The New York Times’ Stephen Holden writes that “By hyping the pageantry and adding more stars, Madden and Parker try to compensate for the new movie’s lack of coherence and narrative momentum. But with no real story to tell, only so much can be done.” Additionally,“in aggressively sunny picker-uppers like the Marigold movies, there is a thin line between adorable and insufferable. And in the second Marigold, Patel has succumbed to his tendency toward cuteness. His performance is an increasingly tiresome display of sentimental slapstick and attempted scene stealing in which he evokes uncomfortable memories of Roberto Benigni running wild in Life Is Beautiful.”

New York Daily NewsJoe Neumaier says the film “turns wrinkles into consistent laughs, but there should be a few more of them and fewer soap opera turns. Dench, however, rocks 79 like it’s the new 50, and Smith naturally never misses a trick. Nighy twists his lanky body around in absence of a real character. Then there’s Gere, who looks unclear why someone his age is even in this movie.”

Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips notes that “Madden's easygoing follow-up resembles a slightly scattered second season of a BBC sitcom…Second Best offers little you couldn't write yourself, but it does so with respectable level of craft. The appeal lies in the ensemble playing. I adore what Nighy can accomplish in the minimalist double-take department, just as I admire the key scene late in the film between Dench and Smith for its quiet simplicity.“

The Guardian’s Mark Kermode agrees, saying that “Lacking the narrative clarity of its predecessor, this patchy sequel juggles too many character-threads to be anything more than episodic. Still, there’s a vast (and deserved) reservoir of affection for the cast, and the ramshackle but likable results will go down well with a cup of tea at what will doubtless be packed matinee screenings.”