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Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 2.34.33 PM“Why die there when you can die here?”

That’s the line in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” that explains the motivation of almost every character in the story. The retirement comedy paints old age in broad strokes, but nails the dark humour of the twilight years with clear, concise and funny dialogue.

As we learned in the first instalment, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a slightly ramshackle retirement home in the Indian city of Jaipur. It’s the kind of place where the proprietor, Sonny (Dev Patel) takes roll call every morning to ensure no one has passed on during the night. His guests are mainly British expats looking to comfortably live out their remaining days… and maybe get a new lease on life.

The original hotel is almost fully booked, and with everyone is looking hale and hardy, there likely won’t be many vacancies for some time. Always a big thinker Sonny looks to expand his business with the backing of an American retirement home chain. The first hurdle in deciding whether the Best Exotic Marigold becomes a “franchise or a footnote” is quality test administered by an undercover guest. When two new guests arrive on the same day director John Madden cues the screwball comedy, injecting a mistaken identity element into the feel good story.

“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is like a mini-Bollywood epic, there’s a bit of everything—dance numbers, comedy, romance and even a murder plot. Ordinarily that would be too much for a two-hour movie—an attempt to please everyone which usually means you please no one—but here the elements fit together. Sure, sometimes the plot shards creek almost as much as the joints of the oldsters we’re watching on screen, but the goodwill the cast—who much have upwards of a 1000 years of combined screen experience—is the cinematic Voltaren that greases the script’s tired bones.

Of the headliners, Judy Dench is reliably great, touching and sincere while Bill Nighy is heartbreakingly moon-faced in love but it is Maggie Smith who steals the show. She stares down mortality with a mixture of poignantly observed insight and on-target barbs. She delivers lines like, “Just because I’m looking at you while you talk doesn’t mean I’m interested,” and “How was America? It made death more tempting,” with the precision of a neurosurgeon and elevates every scene she’s in.

“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is review proof. It’s a charm offensive from a group of actors aiming to please, and for the most part, they do.

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