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'Marigold Hotel'offers safe escape

In theory, seeing Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy share the screen should be a delight.

In reality, the seriocomic romp “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” merely has its moments, but more often feels heavy-handed, sappy and overlong. Sure, it'll seem warm and crowd-pleasing but probably only to crowds of a certain age, who may relate to these characters who find themselves in flux in their twilight. Handsome as the film is from John Madden, who directed Dench to her supporting-actress Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love,” it too often spells out too much, and features painfully literal symbolism like a bird taking flight at just the right time.

Still, Dench does some of the loveliest work of her lengthy and esteemed career here as Evelyn, who's recently widowed after 40 years of marriage and struggling to establish an identity on her own. She's one of several elderly Brits who travel to a resort in Jaipur, India, that advertises itself as an elegant destination for retirees.

There's also Graham (Wilkinson), a burned-our high court judge with fond memories of India from his youth; Muriel (Smith), a cranky former housekeeper in need of a hip replacement who doesn't even bother to hide her racism; the bickering married couple Douglas (Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton), who are miserable in their new assisted-living community; Madge (Celia Imrie), who'd rather be out hunting for a rich husband than taking care of her grandchildren; and Norman (Ronald Pickup), who's similarly been looking for love in all the wrong places.

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 Statham plays 'Safe' with savage excess 
Directed by John Madden, the film is old-fashioned, safe and resistant to stray from its comfort zone — like visiting a foreign country and only eating the foods you already know you like.

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