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Book Club’s next chapter loses the plot: Movie Review

Focus Features
Focus Features

Not every story needs another chapter. Case in point: Book Club: The Next Chapter is about as forgettable and yawn-inducing as a comedy film can get.

In case you missed the first Book Club five years ago, the film features four legendary comediennes (Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen) who find new joie de vivre from their weekly book club.

For this sequel, however, the thin plot revolves around Vivian (Fonda) being treated by her friends to a lavish, needlessly expensive her bachelorette party - which happens to be a weeklong vacation across five-star hotels in Italy.

Don’t get me wrong, I can have a great time in comedy with the sole purpose of having fun with friends. But if you’re short on dramatic substance, the story needs to deliver on creativity, heart and humour. Book Club 2 is almost fully devoid of these.

If you’re under the age of 50 or a man, you have no business going to see Book Club: The Next Chapter. Said plainly, the film has absolutely nothing of interest for you. At my opening night show, I was the only person in the cinema who fit into either category.

The only thing I had in common with the rest of the audience was how infrequently we found anything funny.

You know what’s most disappointing? Almost nothing in the film had anything to do with the book club. Other than two vague references to Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist near the beginning, not a single character, plot element, setting or conflict has anything to do with books - let alone a weekly club about them.

Instead, the contrived and wildly implausible events seem to exist only for the reason of supplementing the wealthy cast with the chance to casually film a movie with their friends in Italy last summer.

The nauseating wealth and carelessness for anyone outside their circle of elitist friends is really off-putting. The central characters seem to be treated like royalty wherever they go simply out of convenience for being a movie that feels more like a fantasy: what if a group of retired friends suddenly won a multimillion lottery jackpot?

Of the main cast, Diane Keaton, once a true movie star, looks the most bored and forbidden from any character expression due to a concerning amount of botox.

Frankly, the only actor who managed to create laughs in the theatre was Candice Bergen’s Sharon. Everyone else's line delivery is as devilishly awkward as the first film.

All of the mild edge and concept was exhausted in that 2018 original. Now, co-writer and director Bill Holderman is scraping hokey romances from the early 2000s to find nothing interesting or romantic to say in his predictable and painful script, full of cheesy double meaning jokes that land like wet cement.

In my original review of the first film five years ago, I teased in the headline that "this Book Club could be worse." This agonizing sequel is the actualization of how much worse it could be. Worst of all, my hopes for this series not to become a film franchise have vanished like a missing book on the shelf.

Book Club: The Next Chapter

3 out of 10

PG, 1hr 46mins. Romance Comedy.

Co-written and directed by Bill Holderman.

Starring Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Candice Bergen.

Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.