Saturday 14 March 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) - Movie Review

Well, after our last cinematic outing, something so dull that I just had to post a review for another movie mere minutes after out of shame, to say that I was not looking forward to this is a major understatement. I’m cautious of any film’s sequel, which given the current cinematic climate means that I’m cautious about pretty much every film released these days, because of Rule of Sequels #19: The follow-up(s) is almost never as good. Sure, there are some films that break this rule like Toy Story 3, The Dark Knight, or even some that I’ve discussed before like How To Train Your Dragon 2 and the entire Hunger Games series so far. However, these don’t come around every day and these are usually a result of the original being a good movie in the first place. No such luck here, although I guess that means that there’s no chance of disappointment with this one. Yay? Anyway, this is The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel… is it just me or is it called that so that the filmmakers can admit that they know full well that this isn’t going to be as good as the first?

The plot: Sonny (Dev Patel) is gearing up for his wedding to Sunaina (Tina Desai), while also trying to expand into a second hotel with the help of his co-manager Muriel (Maggie Smith). As various complications arise from this, along with the many other occurrences that happen to the regular residents of the hotel (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and Diana Hardcastle), two new guests check in: Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig).

As before, we have a very capable cast of accomplished older actors who once again do fine with the lines they’re given. New addition Richard Gere may be slumming it for a paycheck at this stage, but I’ll happily take this over his previous role in the comedic black hole Movie 43, and Tamsin Greig holds her own along with everyone else. Maggie Smith, thankfully completely removed from the crutch of the racism arc she was given in the original, is given a chance to be entertaining as she does her damnedest to be genuinely watchable. However, there are a couple of moments when her punchlines are delivered rather poorly; the “I’m sorry, were you talking to me?” bit from the trailer is actually better edited, and better timed, than it is in the finished movie. Nevertheless, given how she was the major chink in the cast list last time, she shows definite improvement. Unfortunately, again like before, these actors aren’t given the best material to work with. In fact, maybe because I’ve had more prolonged exposure to it this time around, but the writing is quite noticeably worse this time around.

While the original was adapted from the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, this sequel is an original work; as such, it feels like Ol Parker was struggling to think of new things for the characters to do this time around. The lengths gone to to fill in the running time range from the insanely derivative, *SPOILERS* like a subplot where Sonny thinks Guy is a hotel inspector that is pulled right out of a Fawlty Towers episode only nowhere near as funny, to the just plain insane like the subplot between Norman and his girlfriend Carol. The latter starts out on a twisted ankle of a footing with Norman worried that he has accidentally put a hit out on Carol, and it ends with character justification for actions that are just about the worst I’ve seen for this kind of development; how this is billed as anything to make the audience feel good is beyond me. We also have a third-wheel best friend of the bride to deal with here as well for the ‘main’ plot, just in case you haven’t seen enough of that from every other romantic movie ever made.

Now, while all of this is bad enough on its own, it enters into the realm of disastrous when it gets to the ‘twists’ that this film tries to pull over the audience. Said twists are foreshadowed with the subtlety of an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo, which again is pretty awful on its own but it genuinely feels like the film not only knows that the audience can see them coming, but that it doesn’t even care; it just wants us to grit our teeth and bear it. The only reprieve we get from this mindset is the also-annoying habit of this film trying to subvert its own weak twists with different weak twists that inevitably make little sense because of how heavily the formers were set up. In terms of the dialogue, we get a rather aggressive sprinkling of adverb mangling that hack writers keep getting characters to say if English isn’t their first language: "Your command is my wish" and that kind of thing.

The ending, *SPOILERS* while admittedly featuring a fun Bollywood dancing sequence that was a nice distraction, features Maggie Smith delivering one of the lamest, if not the lamest, of these proverbs as the literal final word: "There’s no present like the time." Gag me. It’s not helped that her entire ending monologue is written like clich├ęd post-mortem narration, only she doesn’t die at the end; as a result, this sounds like Maggie Smith desperately wants out of the series and trying to will her character into death. Can’t say I blame her, but then again maybe she was supposed to die at the end and they re-wrote it to counter-act all of the jokes about guests dying at the hotel that are never funny and always uncomfortable, especially considering the fact that a guest did die at the hotel in the last movie. Classy.

While all of the little things definitely gave me more things to bitch and moan about, alleviating my fears that I wouldn’t even be able to write a review for this film due to redundancy, the same problems still persist from the original. There are still too many main characters that are shoved into the spotlight with such erratic frequency that the audience can’t latch onto them, even with the advantage of having spent a whole previous movie with most of them. The key difference being that Tom Wilkinson, the best part of the first one who had the most compelling character story, isn’t here to help even things out a bit. I will give some credit for this one at least being a bit more focused in terms of plot, since Sonny is well and truly the main focus for the majority of the film, but that’s only by comparison; this is still a colossal mess.

All in all, this film succeeded my expectations of just being a complete re-hash of the original, as this found whole new ways to be a pain to sit through. The cast is still good but the writing is as cluttered as ever, made even worse by the rather dismal arcs that the characters are saddled with this time around along with the script’s seeming disdain for the audience and not-giving-a-shit about how badly it creates its twists. I'd normally make a job about how this movie is indeed second best, but that implies that the first was all that good to begin; this just happens to be not as good.

1 comment:

  1. This looks like the type of movie most people wait to come out on DVD.