While I was not a big fan of the first film in this series, I went into this sequel with an open mind. I found this sequel more enjoyable and surprising than the first film, but the movies in this franchise don’t deserve the theatrical treatment they have received. Both movies have a tremendous and talented lead cast going for them, but the rote writing that develops their characters does a great disservice to the caliber of talent these legendary actors have earned.

Much has happened since the events of the first film. While the close-knit group of friends has remained in touch, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept them from spending time together in person. Now that things have returned much closer to regular, longtime friends Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen), and Carol (Mary Steenbergen) have finally reunited. To bring things up to speed, Vivian’s love, Arthur (Don Johnson), has proposed to her, and her closest confidants wish to throw her a bachelorette celebration that she will never forget. After some initial reservations, the ladies have decided to travel to Italy to reconnect, memorialize their friendship, and give Vivian a proper send-off.

Written and directed by Bill Holderman, who co-wrote the film with Erin Simms, Book Club: The Next Chapter is guaranteed to please and entertain fans of the first movie and should also very moderately surprise those who found the previous installment dull and uninspired, but at the same time, still has a lot of the same problems that made Book Club so frustrating. The main problem is the writing, particularly the comedy attempts, which are directed at the protagonists’ ages. While I laughed during both movies, the type of humor and its targets often wear thin. We get it. These ladies are older and have yet to lead conventional lives. However, the comedy often makes fun of these quirky characters and their lifestyles, and these jabs get tiresome.

To the story’s benefit, this movie does more with its character development and has some unexpected turns in store. At the same time, the film still leaves more to be desired, and as a result, it squanders the talents that all of these remarkable actors have to offer. I have seen other movies from these outstanding talents that show much more range and dimension. Perhaps, I want too much from them, given their resumes, but I feel that everyone involved deserves better treatment than what this movie provides.

I know this movie already has a built-in audience, and maybe I don’t belong within it. Still, I know that Keaton, Fonda, Bergen, and Steenburgen are all capable of more challenging and satisfying performances. That is not to say that they did not perform well, but these Book Club movies do not precisely belong within their legacies.

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