THE GANG'S ALL HERE: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy reunite for <em>The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel</em>.

People love going to a foreign film, even one from England, and then discovering it has the properties of an American sitcom — developing arcs, character complications, and insurmountable problems that just blow away in the end. It would be pointless to warn anybody away from this movie, which is just strong enough and just more of the same enough to prove my sitcom point. After The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, we wanted to know what would happen next to these characters we like. There was Maggie Smith, so ardent and secretly wounded; Bill Nighy and Judi Dench, too English for their own good; and of course Dev Patel and Tina Desai as the proprietors who seem both childishly kind and on the con. There’s no sense in using their character names. We went to watch these actors work.

In this case, the sequel relies too heavily on a sitcom joke stolen from the brilliant John Cleese vehicle, Fawlty Towers. An inspector is coming, and Sonny (Patel) makes an obvious, obnoxious identity mistake that draws Richard Gere into the wackiness.

Despite the plot theft, the film has a nice wistful quality I don’t remember from the first film. The music and the scenery seem employed almost to evoke a wonderful world of the past. This episode is not great; it’s truly second best, but the fans of the first one ought to tune in for this season’s offerings. Why haven’t they made this a television show?


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