“Why die here when I can die there?” – a dubious tagline is ever there was one.
I can’t pretend that even the first one was a complete pleasure for me, but I am ever so charmed by the golden oldies in the cast and that was excuse enough, more than enough, to give it a watch.
The second one has mostly the same cast of Britain’s finest senior citizens. Bill Nighy, a particular favourite of mine, does his brilliant little grimace right off the bat, and I am gratified: almost worth the price of admission. Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton are at their cattiest, delightfully. Judi Dench is as strong and charismatic as ever. But this movie tries so hard to recreate the first one’s magic by basically just regurgitating it when in fact what it needed most was some fresh blood. Richard Gere, you say? Yes, he makes an appearance, but it stinks. He makes his grand entrance, grey hair flopping boyishly away, bringing with him the ugly whiff of American romcom. He’s like a virus, infecting what was already a perfect cast, a full complement of the world’s best that didn’t need or want improving upon. And Gere doesn’t – no fault of his. He just stuck out like a sore thumb.
The elderly each have their own romantic subplots, but the story’s meat is that Sonny (Dev Patel) is looking to take on a second property to expand his hotel “empire” while neglecting his wedding plans. Actually, the wedding bits were probably the most dazzling – the colours, the flowers, the brightly lit lanterns, the beautiful saris. But I didn’t remember Dev Patel being such an awkward, borderline racist caricature. A bit of a buffoon maybe, but now he’s a downright fool. His florid, over the top communications wore me out quickly. And the constant “jokes” about death – (I hesitate to call them that though I do believe that’s the spirit in which they were intended) – painful. Not a single one landed with the audience, most of them there on a discounted senior’s ticket. Crickets.
Even the title tells us this will be the second best, but it doesn’t suggest just how far from the first it has fallen. Second rate is more like it.