Okay, let’s clear one thing up first. In spite of potential confusion with the title, I’m sure the filmmakers intended it to mean the second version of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel rather than a second-rate version of the first one.
Whether the film manages to be a second version or a second-best version of the original film is perhaps more open to question.
The main positive of this film is revisiting characters we know from the first film (Dames Judi and Maggie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and Dev Patel), even (surprisingly) the charmingly odious Jean Ainslie (Penelope Wilton). They feel like friends like by this point, so it’s a bit like putting on a comfy pair of slippers.
We learn more about the roles they’ve adopted in Jaipur, but (of course) this means that one of the key successes of the first film – the ‘fish out of water’ experience is lost. And that element doesn’t appear with the addition of Richard Gere and Tamsin Greig’s characters.
There was an interesting sub-plot about monogamy in older age which could have been fleshed out more, as it raised an interesting perspective.
Occasionally, the film steps into some darker or sadder places. Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith), whose character journey was well-defined in the first film, appears on screen more but with a somewhat underplayed storyline. There’s a hint of where it’s going, but it is tantalisingly unresolved by the end of the film.
Although an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, the film felt like ‘characters in search of a plot’. To be frank, nothing really happens. A few strands from the first film are continued and developed and it’s all very nice, but we learn very little new in terms of the characters and very little actually happened. And, slightly unforgivably, the resolution of whether there will be a second hotel really comes out of nowhere.
I’m not sure I would say the film is ‘second best’, but I do feel that it was something of a watered-down second trip to a well which, in the end, perhaps didn’t really need to happen.