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Catholic News Service Movie Reviews

03/11/2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — Based on its ingratiating surface, the comedy sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight) might be categorized as the sort of film that, while safest for adults, could also be appropriate, at a stretch, for well-grounded teens.

Closer analysis, however, reveals underlying elements that make director John Madden’s followup to his 2012 ensemble piece The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a morally mixed journey not to be undertaken without the passport of a seasoned judgment.

In returning to the eccentric Indian hostelry that served as the primary setting for his original movie, Madden doesn’t spare much thought for viewers unfamiliar with that earlier opus. The roll call of guests that makes up a part of the Marigold’s morning routine — and that serves as a precaution against any resident’s death in the night going unnoticed — presents us with, but fails to introduce, repeat characters.

Thus newcomers to the story will have to discover for themselves the variety of romantic difficulties besetting the inmates of this innovative — and very pleasant — substitute for an old-age home. Would-be couple Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy), for example, are too reticent to follow through on their feelings for each other.

Recovering lothario Norman (Ronald Pickup) is having difficulty adjusting to his newly exclusive relationship with girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle). So much so, that Norman fears his idle complaints to a local cabbie during an inebriated taxi ride, together with his extravagant overpayment of the fare, may have been mistaken for a request to have his style-cramping companion eliminated.

Marriage-minded Madge (Celia Imrie) is spoiled for choice, unable to decide which of her two ardent — and eminently eligible — suitors she should accept.

As for Sonny (Dev Patel), the good-hearted young man who shares management duties at the Marigold with sharp-tongued former guest Muriel (Maggie Smith), his preoccupation with expanding their business interferes with the preparations for his wedding to fiancee Sunaina (Tina Desai).

His striving for new heights also leads Sonny to decide, impulsively, that self-identified novelist Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) is really the undercover inspector hotel-chain magnate, and potential Marigold investor, Ty Burley (David Strathairn) has dispatched to evaluate the lodging.

A vast pool of veteran talent and the appeal of Patel’s grandiloquent patter serve as reliable resources for Madden. But, in drawing once again on material that originated with Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel These Foolish Things, Madden takes unwed liaisons and living arrangements as a given.

Ol Parker’s screenplay, moreover, though its dialogue is, for the most part, suitable for teatime, seems to stack the emotional deck against the long-lived, though turbulent, marriage uniting Douglas with acerbic Jean (Penelope Wilton). Douglas would do well, we’re apparently meant to infer, to jettison the unsympathetic Jean in favour of a bright future with Evelyn.

The film contains acceptability of divorce, benignly viewed premarital situations, several sexual references, at least one use of profanity and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.


Unfinished Business
By Joseph McAleer


NEW YORK (CNS) — Some things are best left undone or not even begun in the first place. A case in point: the aptly titled Unfinished Business (Fox).

This vile comedy, directed by Ken Scott (Delivery Man), ill-advisedly aspires to be The Hangover for the corporate world, a tale of businessmen gone wild while away from the office. The ramshackle result is a loosely connected, tasteless and thoroughly unamusing series of crude jokes and deviant behaviour.

Corporate salesman Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) is fed up with his belittling boss, a woman named Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller). So he quits his job and sets up a rival company, intent on stealing away Chuck’s biggest client.

Prospects are slim, as Dan has only two recruits for his new firm: Tim McWinters (Tom Wilkinson), who’s washed up and near retirement, and dimwitted industry newcomer Mike Pancake (Dave Franco).

The race is on, as Dan and Chuck pursue the same big deal across the country and overseas. The target of their competition is Jim Spinch (James Marsden), the smarmy head of a global conglomerate.

It’s not a compelling story, and stops in Berlin and Hamburg serve mainly to satisfy the sexual fantasies of the main trio, together with their taste for recreational drugs. A supposedly comic interlude in the restroom of a gay bar includes graphic images of a perverse sexual practice that should have no place in a movie to which young people could possibly gain access.

When not partaking of his own preferred methods of dissipation, Dan spends his time on the phone home, giving very bad advice to his troubled children, Paul (Britton Sear) and Bess (Ella Anderson). The quality of Dan’s counsel can be judged by an earlier scene in which he assures Paul that masturbation is perfectly acceptable, and that he engages in it regularly himself.

The film contains strong sexual content, including aberrant situations, graphic non-marital sexual activity as well as numerous images of full nudity, benignly viewed drug use, a few instances of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops