The very idea of a movie that chronicles the tale of seven senior citizens who land in India for a retirement haven doesn't quite make you jump with joy. Add to that a narrative that not just moves at a snail's pace but is awfully boring at most points only ends up making 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' a dull affair that can be conveniently skipped.
It's much younger counterpart, 'Couples Retreat' (Vince Vaughn) wasn't any promising either as it had not just opened to average reviews but hadn't even found much commercial success coming it's way. Now due to its noble theme and an underplay of emotions by seven senior actors has possibly found a much better attention coming it's way in the critics circle. However when it comes to the entertainment quotient, 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' has hardly anything to offer.
This is the reason why its little-over-conventional length of two hours seems painfully longer as the characters keep talking and eating (in no particular order) as they start discovering India. Of course this also means that there is a mandatory elephant-walking-on-the-road shot (cliche no. 1) that only announces further that director John Madden may well end up throwing more such 'Hey look, this is India' number time and again. All of this and more is actually up for the grabs as one ends up seeing India as the land of call centres, untouchables, no-sex-before-marriage country and largely inhabited by poor.
No issues with that though since it is the way West looks at India, just like the way India looks at West as a playground where 'American Pie' dreams come alive in every campus. After all, these are some stereotypes that the world indeed lives with. However what fails to engage is the basic plot of the film which, by the way, is made of quite a few subplots. So while one of the ladies (Judi Dench) wants to make a start a new career in India, Tom Wilkinson finally comes face-to-face with his Indian love of many years.
While these are the two stories that actually leave maximum impact, the stories that just fail to rise are the ones involving a bored-of-each other couple, the man who wants to try out different 'kama sutra' positions, the lady who after being disgusted with India now wants to manage the very hotel (Marigold Hotel by the way) and another who wants to find the best available single, even though she is on the wrong side of the 60s. Too many subplots, too little dimension and too little depth - a pity, considering the fact that the film ended up eating two hours and still couldn't lead to an entertaining conclusion.
In the middle of this all there is Dev Patel who actually charms each time that he appears on screen. Now that's commendable because as such his characterisation is irrelevant to the film and in the bigger scheme of things could have been entirely done away with. Still, his scenes with the elders as well as his girlfriend (Tena Desae) are done well which means he does light up the scene whenever he appears.
Afraid to say that same can't really be said about rest of the characters or film as a whole.