|The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel|
Dev Patel is the common thread in the week's two new features:
"Chappie" isn't any finer a film than writer-director Neill Blomkamp's others ("District 9," "Elysium"), but it's a damn sight more fun. Here is just about the wackiest studio movie in recent memory, with significant roles for the members of the South African rap-rave duo Die Antwoord, and yet… it's got a funky charm, a punky soundtrack and a number of big laughs. Patel stars as Deon Wilson, the brains behind Tetraval, Inc.'s in-demand police droids. His secret A.I. project, though, involves a mangled robot, consigned to the scrap heap, which Deon rescues and implants with a consciousness chip that makes it sentient.
The aforementioned Ninja and Yo-Landi kidnap Deon and the bot, which she names Chappie, and set about making him "gangster fother mucker number one." Meanwhile, the even worse baddies to whom they owe twenty mil come for the lot of them, and Tetraval CEO Sigourney Weaver at length authorizes Hugh Jackman to unleash his remote-controlled monstrosity, Moose (who is to Chappie as a tank is to a smart bomb). Kenneth Turan, in his vituperative L.A. Times review, called "Chappie" "cartoonish and preposterous, and not in a good way." He got everything right but the "not."
The average age was deceased for my showing of "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Whatever charm you may have found in the original (I didn't) has long since evaporated from this curdled curry of old-age jokes, homilies worthy of a turban-shaped night light, and pointless plot meanderings that stretch its wafer-thin premise over two eye-rolling hours. The hyperactive Patel manages to mug even more frenetically than before as keen-as-mustard hotelier Sonny Kapoor, who calls roll each morning to make sure none of his guests have gone on to that luxury suite in the sky. There's so much of that kind of humor that it begins to turn sour. (None of it matches the wit of the play "Vigil," in which Olympia Dukakis mentions needing to buy Christmas cards and her nephew asks, "Isn't that a bit… optimistic?")
Meanwhile, a silly subplot involving mistaken assumptions about a hit man and marital infidelity wouldn't have been out of place in the last season of "Three's Company"; a halting romance between Judi Dench and Bill Nighy takes fucking forever to play out; and another arc involving Richard Gere and Tamsin Grieg as hotel inspectors for rival corporations (and David Strathairn in the world's shortest cameo as Gere's boss) goes nowhere. Ol Parker has written Maggie Smith a few great misanthropic lines, which she slam-dunks as only she can, but her two-minute highlight reel is the only take-away from John Madden's Jaipur jalopy.