Reviews by Ken Burke
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews. Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up. Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden)
Once again we follow the exploits of elderly Brits at a retirement hotel in Jaipur, India, run by a young local man who’s about to get married but is more focused on getting funding to buy a second hotel property, irritating his fiancée and his mother; we’re also expected to keep up with several subplots involving aging and romance among the many other characters.
So What? The Second Best … is what I consider a true movie sequel (the kind of thing that traces its roots back in existent [rather than ambiguous “lost”] features to at least The Son of the Sheik [George Fitzmaurice, 1926], when “Latin Lover” Rudolph Valentino went Arabic again to play the offspring of his previous character in The Sheik [George Melford, 1921]—he also plays the father in the sequel) where the first film isn’t part of an intended series (Star Wars [George Lucas, 1977], Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s [or Philosopher’s] Stone [Chris Columbus, 2001], The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [Peter Jackson, 2001], Twilight [Catherine Hardwicke, 2008], The Hunger Games [Gary Ross, 2012], etc.) but exists purely to milk more money from an audience that responded well to the first offering (such things as the continuations of The Exorcist [William Friedkin, 1973], Back to the Future [Robert Zemeckis, 1985] and Shrek [Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson, 2001] come easily to mind, whereas with something like Frankenstein [James Whale, 1931] and The Godfather [Francis Ford Coppola, 1972] the essence of the first follow-up is contained in the original literary work, but the others that came later are true sequels intended purely for the pleasure of audiences who wanted the original storylines to somehow continue). All of this previous prelude is an extended explanation as to why The Second Best … has to prove a reason for its existence as a filmic entity rather than just a family reunion, which for me it doesn’t do all that well, forcing us to meander through a couple of subplots that don’t need to exist at all and a forced “tension” around Guy being the investment-firm-inspector that feels phony almost from its introduction (in addition to Sonny turning into such a dithering idiot that we have a hard time forgetting about all of his interpersonal transgression in order to fully celebrate that lavish wedding). Fully-invested-fans of the first … Exotic Marigold Hotel may be able to overlook the flimsy whimsy here in order to be with Smith, Dench, and Nighy again, especially, as well as the welcome additions of Gere and Strathairn, but for the rest of us the meandering plotlines get old quickly (even more so than the creaking characters—I speak from experience here as my shoulders and hip remind me that 67 isn’t just the year that Sgt. Pepper’s … was released but it's also where I am now even as the clock keeps ticking), with only the sanitized scenery of India (based on testimony from a friend who lived there that you’d never see this many cleanly, beggar-less settings in the big cities of Jaipur and Mumbai) and the lavish wedding scene to provide some visual satisfaction along with the sincere touches of Evelyn and Douglas finally connecting, with the possibility that Muriel and Ty might someday couple up too (assuming that either Smith or her character is still alive by the time that a third … Hotel might be in the offering).