Check in again for more love and laughter as new arrival Richard Gere joins an all-star ensemble cast — including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel — returning for this heartwarming sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel! Now that his first venture has been proven successful, ever-confident Sonny (Patel) is busy juggling plans for a second resort...as well as his own wedding. But his efforts are constantly hampered by hilarious complications, and in order to pull it all together, he'll need a little help and encouragement from his resident friends.
Being a fan of John Madden (the director), 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' and the completely lighthearted feel-good nature that its cast brings, I looked forward to revisiting them in the form of a 'Marigold Hotel' sequel. And even though I completely enjoyed the return to India, the hotel and the characters, there's absolutely no denying that this satisfying sequel was absolutely unnecessary.
Even though the first movie had the same amount of character stories, 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' feels a bit more bustling and busy. I don't believe that's due to it trying to do more, but because of the high(er)-stress stories at hand.
The grand story that weaves everything together in the sequel is the coming wedding of Sonny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina (Tina Desai). The preparations for their large ceremony and celebration are in full swing; however, Sonny is distracted by a great new hotel-related possibility and can't seem to keep his cool regarding one of Sunaina's male best friends. With Sonny being as tense and high-energy as he is, I mostly blame him for the overall busy feel of this new chapter.
Alongside Muriel (Maggie Smith), Sonny has been working on creating a partnership with a highly successful chain of senior retirement communities. If the partnership goes well, then Sonny will have the opportunity to expand the Marigold Hotel into a second location, one much larger in size and with the ability to gain recognition and notoriety. Before the owner of the large chain (David Strathairn) will shake hands with Sonny and Muriel, he plans to send an undercover analyst to stay at the hotel to inspect the quality and care given. When a new guest arrives at the Marigold Hotel (Richard Gere) and claims to be an author visiting India for research on a new novel, then Sonny immediately fingers him as the assessor and leaves behind all wedding prep to pander to the presumably very special guest.
While this is happening, Evelyn (Judi Dench) accepts an offer to take her small-time tapestry-acquiring hobby to a much larger scale with a big vendor. With her hobby becoming a full-time job, her life also gets busier – so busy, in fact, that she fails to recognize the blossoming romance unfolding between her and Douglas (Bill Nighy). Douglas, on the other hand, is aware of his feelings for her and can no longer keep things on a friend level. Like a teenage boy leading up to his first romance, he builds up the courage to make a move, only Evelyn's life has become complicatingly busy and his ex-wife's complications ruin each chance that he has.
On top of those main storylines, there's also a pair of budding relationship tales that unfold: one love triange between a couple of existing cast members and another involving Gere and a different returning cast member.
Although it's not as great as the first movie, 'The Second Best Exotic Hotel' is still absolutely worthwhile for the fans of the first. It's fun visiting the lovable characters and, because of that, the sentimental ending brings us to a great close.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox has placed 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' on a Region A BD-50 disc and placed it in blue Elite keepcase. A code is included that's good for the redemption of either an Ultraviolet or an iTunes digital copy of the film. A glossy cardboard slipcase is included, the artwork of which is similar to that of the first movie's Blu-ray release, only with a variance on the color scheme. When you pop the disc into your machine, after a forced Fox reel and a Digital HD commercial, skippable trailers for 'Far From the Madding Crowd,' 'The Sound of Music' and 'Woman in Gold' play leading up to the clip and music-laden main menu.
While this may be the second-best 'Marigold Hotel' movie, its 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video presentation is second-to-none. Thanks to digital cameras, cinematographer Ben Smithard and the wonderfully colorful and naturally cinematic nation of India, there's an unstoppable flow of highly detailed and beautiful imagery to behold within this film. From start to finish, the video quality is 100 percent crystal clear, allowing fine sharp details to be visible non-stop. The clothing textures are wonderful, as are the actors' facial features. Fine lines abound without the slightest flaws. The tiniest individual specks of hovering dust particles can be seen floating through bright rays of sunlight.
Contrast is perfect and black levels are deep and weighty. Fleshtones are natural. The color palette is all over the spectrum, but there's a charming harmony within the explosive and loud chaos that's very pleasing to the eye.
I'm a little floored at this disc's video quality. Having seen the film during its theatrical run and knowing what to expect, I was still caught offguard due to it constantly making my jaw hit floor. If you're never able to visit India in person, this just might be the best substitute. I didn't notice a single instance of aliasing, bands (although opportunities for banding present themselves), crushing or noise. Although you might not use this small film for your next demo disc, it's worth praising for its perfect and flawless video presentation.
Just like the video quality, the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD audio mix carries a surprisingly strong punch too. Unexpectedly, the film kicks off with a sequence showing Sonny and Muriel roadtripping across Southern California's Mojave Desert. With the top down and rock n' roll blaring, the musical mix automatically shows its colors. Be it American music or traditional Indian music, there's always a loud, bright, full and dynamic space-filling fullness to it.
Alongside that opening rock track, the film kicks off with a great use of effect mixing. As their muscle car speeds by when the movie cuts in from black, the whooshing sound of it seamlessly images from the back to the front of the theater. Just as the video quality is constantly wowing, so does the effects mixing. There's always something strongly mixed to be heard. After the American intro, we jump back to the hotel in India. The moment we arrive, we're welcomed with a flood of serene dynamic sounds that emit from all channels - birds, animals, the breeze. Once we step into the market setting, the bustling street sounds take over in a similar strong fashion. The effects are always great-sounding.
Although the vocal mix also carries these same strong suits, the only fault that I find are a few instances where the characters are placed in loud locales, so the actors raise their voices to yell over the sounds – only their vocal levels aren't raised any higher than normal. You can still clearly understand what they're saying, but it creates a silly feel hearing them needlessly yell over sounds that don't need to be yelled over.
Each of the features included is nothing more than a too-brief EPK promotional video that presumably could have been seen on YouTube prior to the film's theatrical release. Each clip-filled segment features the cast and the crew discussing topics that would have made for great expanded special features instead of teasing snippets.
'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' is an unnecessary sequel - but that doesn't mean that it's a throw-away. For those who love the lighthearted nature and lovable characters of the first movie, there's plenty of worthwhile content here. Although not as strongly written as the first, 'The Second' is better than most sequels made. The video and audio qualities are brilliant, but the disc is definitely lacking in the special features area. If you enjoyed the first film and need some uplifting entertainment, then look no further than this disc.