- Maggie Smith ("Potter's" Professor McGonagall) plays a woman afraid of anything foreign
- "Slumdog Millionaire's" Dev Patel plays an ambitious fellow named Sonny
- "Marigold Hotel" sells something safe and sweet to an underserved share of the moviegoing market
Although reincarnation is never discussed in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," past lives exert a powerful presence in this lulling, happy-face story of retirement-age self-renewal, set in a shimmering, weltering, jewel-colored India.
Except in this case, the recycling isn't of souls but of the elements of box office success. So to get the most out of the manufactured "Marigold" experience -- or at least to find something to say afterward other than ''Well, that was...cute'' -- it helps first to meditate on the karmic path that has led to this moment in time, and this blending of sanitized "Slumdog Millionaire" exoticism with the popular "Enchanted April" promise of reinvention abroad.
Likewise, to best enjoy this warming tale of seven British pensioners who come to Jaipur for their retirement, it helps to watch the actors in a kind of memory trance that summons up past performances overlaid on the present. While admiring Judi Dench now as a stalwart widow in financial straits after her husband's death, for instance, try summoning up the image of her as the stalwart widow Queen Victoria in Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown.
While enjoying the delightful apoplexies of Maggie Smith as an acidic old bat afraid of anything foreign, think of the