Britain has a wealth of mature acting talent, yet filmmakers don’t always put faith in their commercial clout.
One solution? Put them all together in the same movie, in the hope their combined star power will prove enough to entice the sort of people who don’t go to the cinema back to the multiplexes.
Calendar Girls, Last Orders and Tea With Mussolini are a few of the titles that adhere to this cosy template. To their number can now be added John Madden’s latest, an almost aggressively cuddly comedy which sees a group of pensioners swap Blighty for a retirement home in Jaipur run by local Sonny (Dev Patel).
In scenes strikingly redolent of Carry On Abroad, Sonny’s ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ turns out to be a crumbling dump with few of the home comforts its fussier new residents (Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton) demand.
Yet that doesn’t prevent the recently widowed Evelyn (Judi Dench) falling in love with her surroundings, freshly outed banker Graham (Tom Wilkinson) seeking out an old boyfriend or randy codger Norman (Ronald Pickup) going on the prowl.
Deborah Moggach’s These Foolish Things, the novel on which this film is based, had a serious point to make about the best way to care for an ageing population. Yet that seems to have got lost in transit.
Writer Ol Parker focuses instead on fish-out-of-water business involving spicy food and crappy plumbing while playing up the customary Indian clichés (cricket-playing street urchins, wisdom-spouting gurus and incompetent drivers barreling recklessly down inadequate dusty roads).
Not so much Slumdog as slumming it.
The pleasure of seeing a supergroup of Brit-veterans soon withers in an OAP comedy that plumps for light laughs over deeper insights.