The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

DIRECTED BY: John Madden
STARRING: Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Richard Gere
RATING: 3.5 stars

Muriel (Maggie Smith) is helping Sonny (Dev Patel) expand his hotel business while he also plans his wedding to Sunaina (Tina Desai). The current hotel has just one vacancy left, which poses a problem when Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) arrive separately to stay for a visit. Meanwhile, Evelyn (Judi Dench) is balancing her new career and a possible romance with Douglas (Bill Nighy), Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Carol (Diana Hardcastle) are figuring out if they want a monogamous relationship, and Madge (Celia Imrie) is juggling two wealthy suitors.

The original film was such a wonderful surprise that there was perhaps a bit more pressure on the sequel to be just as funny, charming and sweet. I am happy to report that it is as delightful as we all hoped. The original cast, director and writer are all back on board and the addition of Gere and Greig is refreshing. Gere in particular garnered squeals of delight from the packed cinema as women swooned at the first sight of him. Smith is as hilarious as always, saying everything people think but rarely say out loud. Dench and Nighy are also endearing and cute together, while Imrie has some great comical moments. Pickup and Hardcastle have the weakest sub-plot but are still enjoyable to watch. Of course, the film really centres on Patel, who clearly had a lot of fun with the role. Some of Sonny's decisions are questionable and cause unnecessary conflict, but the film culminates in a poignant message about life. There is also some fun traditional Indian dancing thrown in to please the fans. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a bit too long, given the first film already established so much about these characters, but it is still a lovely way to spend an evening.