Sometimes it’s nice to just take a second, relax, and breathe normally at the movies. With all the bloody shootouts, filthy humor, and hyper-kinetic kid flicks that seem to dominate at the cineplex these days, there’s a certain amount of pleasant relief that comes with movies like The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotela gentle drift down a lazy river on a warm, summer day.

Picking up eight months after the events that closed 2011’s first installment, Marigold finds everyone back for another go-round at the senior citizen center/hotel in Jaipur, India. Sonny (Dev Patel) and the delightfully droll Muriel (Maggie Smith) are still co-running things but are now looking to expand their business model into more properties. Douglas (Bill Nighy) is still pining for the elusive Evelyn (Judi Dench), and Celia (Marge Hardcastle) is still on the prowl for a longtime companion.

The first film’s witty, dry comedy is still running underneath everything these folks do; the amusingly fatalistic Sonny is still a super-charged go-getter, continuing to call roll every morning– just to make sure someone hasn’t taken his or her long, final journey overnight.

There are even a few new wrinkles just to ensure the daily goings-on don’t become stale. Richard Gere checks in as Guy Chambers, a handsome novelist who Sonny hilariously mistakes for a hotel inspector, and who quickly sets his sights on Sonny’s widowed mother.

The backbone of Marigold’s story is split into three acts (The Engagement Party, The Family Party, and the Wedding), as Sonny prepares for his imminent nuptials to Sunaina (Tena Desai). So naturally we get all the requisite wedding-centric hilarity, culminating with a stellar dance routine that rivals the closing credits from Patel’s Slumdog Millionaire.

Director John Madden (who also helmed the first) is back for the ride, as is the original’s screenwriter Ol Parker, so you can imagine the tried-and-true tenet of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is very much in play. The two films could (and heck, should) be run back-to-back without so much as a hiccup. It’s as delightful and entertaining a pair of movies to hit screens this decade. And there’s nothing “second best” about this sequel.

If you still need some action in your movies, fear not. The filmmakers even went so far as to include a nifty little tuk-tuk chase through the Jaipur streets just for you.

4/5 stars