Filmmaking isn't arithmetic, and those who approach it as such are generally to be avoided. That said, there do on occasion exist equations that are not to be trifled with. Take, for example, the algebraic logic underlying The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the sequel to 2012’s surprise hit, which might be summarized as (Judi Dench + Bill Nighy + Maggie Smith) x screenwriter Ol Parker x director John Madden. Is it possible that this formula could produce an unsatisfying product? There were moments during the sequel, I confess, when I feared it might. But ultimately, the assembled talent and wistful charm won out.
The movie follows in the wake of its predecessor, in which a motley group of English retirees rediscovered themselves following a move to a pensioner's hotel in India. The new installment opens in broad but likable farce: Sonny (Dev Patel), the proprietor of the original hotel, and Muriel (Maggie Smith), his skeptical tenant-turned-partner visit San Diego to take a meeting about the possible expansion of their franchise to a second venue.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the salty hilarity of Muriel, the corporate executive receiving their pitch (a sadly underutilized David Strathairn) promises to consider the proposal, and hints that he will send someone incognito to assess the current property and its management. It's little wonder that when a handsome stranger named Guy Chambers (played by Richard Gere) shows up at the (original) Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, he is presumed to be that someone.