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It's called 'Second Best' for a reason

Published March 18. 2015 04:00PM

You're asking for critical brickbats when you title a sequel "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

So, here goes: The film is aptly named. It's rarely as much fun as the original, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2011), even though nearly the entire original cast is back.

Tom Wilkinson is not back because the character he played, Graham Dashwood, died in the first film.

The returning stellar cast, including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, Penelope Wilton and "Exotic Hotel" newcomer Richard Gere, "die" in the second film.

Or rather, their performances "die" because these fine actors are not given much to do or say in the episodic, lackluster and peculiarly unfunny screenplay by Ol Parker, who wrote the screenplay for the first "Marigold Hotel" film, which was based on the novel by Deborah Moggach.

Try as he might, director John Madden ("Proof," 2005; "Shakespeare In Love," 1998), who directed the first "Marigold Hotel," cannot breathe life into the characters despite the lively sitars and tablas on the soundtrack; three-wheeled bicycle taxis and other vehicles careening down the streets of Jaipur, India; bits of business and banter that go nowhere, and fascinating scenery.

The film is edited with a slowly measured moving camera injected with montages of inconsequential freneticism. A travelogue does not a feature film make.

"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" plays like "Sex and the Senior Ashram" meets "Eat, Pray, Die."

"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" revolves around the engagement and wedding of Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel, reprising his role) and his fiancee, Sunaina (Tina Desai, also reprising her role), their bickering, and his aim to purchase a rundown hotel to expand his hostelry, hence the film's title.

The actors mainly stroll about, sit placidly, engage in small talk and get into the occasional snit. Each has a secondary role to that of Patel, who, dutifully following the part as written, gambols with overly animated face and a line delivery of fawning intensity.

The film redeems itself somewhat by finally letting the actors interact and concludes in an exuberant Bollywood-style choreographed wedding dance.

You still may want to check into "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." The film did make me want to visit India or at least try on my old Nehru jacket.

"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.) for some language and suggestive comments; Genre: Comedy, Drama; Run time: 2 hrs., 2 mins.; Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Thomas Newman composed the original music for "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

Box Office, March 13: "Cinderella" got a lucky break on a Friday the 13th weekend of pi, putting up the numbers for No. 1, opening with a healthy $70 million and, with only one silver slipper, keeping "Run All Night" opening at No. 2 with only $11 million.

3. "Kingsman: The Secret Service," $6.2 million, $107.3 million, five weeks; 4. "Focus," $5.8 million, $44 million, three weeks; 5. "Chappie," $5.8 million, $23.3 million, two weeks. 6. "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," $5.7 million, $18 million, two weeks; 7. "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water," $4.1 million, $154.6 million, six weeks; 8. "McFarland, USA," $3.6 million, $34.9 million, four weeks; 9. "American Sniper," $2.9 million, $341.5 million, 12 weeks; 10. "The DUFF," $2.9 million, $30.2 million, four weeks.

Unreel, March 20: "Insurgent," PG: Shailene Woodley is back as Beatrice Prior in the "Divergent" series based on Veronica Roth's best-selling young adult novels. The science-fiction thriller also stars Theo James, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Zoe Kravits, Maggie Q, Ashley Judd and Octavia Spencer.

"Danny Collins," R: Al Pacino, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer, Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale and Melissa Benoist star in the comedy about an aging rock star who decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon. The movie is said to be inspired by a true story.

"The Gunman," R: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone star in the action drama about a former Special Forces soldier and a military contractor suffering from PTSD.

"Do You Believe?" No MPAA rating: A pastor reconnects with his faith. Ted McGinley, Mira Sorvino, Andrea Logan White and Lee Majors star in the drama.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press website, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times News website, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6-6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, wdiy.org, where the movie reviews are archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@tnonline. com. Follow Paul Willistein on Twitter @ PaulWillistein and friend Paul Willistein on Facebook.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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