Since it attracted a staunchly adult audience, apparently made up of women in particular, the first Exotic Marigold Hotel was scorned, secretly or openly, as a hot-flash movie, the sort of thing liked by ladies who wear comfy sandals and wrap themselves in shawls for going out to dinner. In other words, it wasn't made for you or me.
I'm wagging the finger not at you, but at myself: I didn't see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel when it came out -- no comfy sandals for me, thanks. But when I finally did catch it, I reconnected immediately with the appeal of watching wonderful actors in a not-so-simple story that reflected the incongruities and half-disappointing surprises of real-life living. Why resist Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, and Tom Wilkinson, the last not, for once, playing the trademark sweaty stuffed shirt?
And if the harsh truth is that this follow-up is second best, it's still not half bad. All of the original cast -- with the exception of Wilkinson, for reasons that will be clear if you've seen the first film -- have returned. In the first picture, a clutch of mismatched English people d'un certain âge descended upon what they’d been led to believe was a plush retirement community in Jaipur -- what they found upon their arrival was a ramshackle old joint, badly run by an antic, bumbling young go-getter (Dev Patel).
There's a lot going on here, perhaps too much, but there's still some magic to be shaken from the formula. The banter between the peppery Smith and the much softer-looking, though no less fiery, Dench is particularly fun; even better is the halting romance between Dench and Nighy.