If you put the first Book Club movie in a PG-13 blender with the likes of Girls Trip, Bridesmaids, and 80 for Brady, you’d have yourself a nice, tall glass of Book Club: The Next Chapter. The drink goes down easy enough, but once the glass is empty, you won’t feel the need to make it again. Two chapters is more than enough of this franchise. Especially when we’ve just seen a slightly better comedy drama about female friendship featuring Jane Fonda in a very similar role. Substitute Italy for the [Brady] Super Bowl and you know what’s in play here. Don’t get me wrong. I love Rome, Venice and Tuscany and all the food, culture, landscapes and Aperol spritzes that Italy has to offer. But cinematography aside, there’s little reason to see this film on the big screen. It’s more of a sip and stream flick.

The sequel to 2018’s Book Club opens with a literary quote from “The Alchemist” — something about fate and taking destiny into your own hands. But that’s about all the ‘book’ you’ll get in this Next Chapter. (Sorry Christian Grey fans, no doubling down on “50 Shades” here). Pandemic restrictions are lifting and gal pals Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) are eager to play catch-up IRL. So when commitment-phobe Vivian reveals she is engaged to her off-again, on-again beau Arthur (Don Johnson), the seeds are sown for a relaxing-weekend-turned-wild bachelorette party in Italy. The universe has spoken! They are simply destined to go. The trip gives each of the women a chance to explore where they’ve been and where they are going as women, as wives, as mothers, as single retirees and of course, as friends.

As for the men (in addition to Johnson)… Andy Garcia is back as Mitchell, the handsome pilot who swept the widowed Diane off her feet in Book Club; Craig T. Nelson reprises his role as Carol’s husband, Bruce; and a couple of new characters pop up in Italy, including a foodie blast from Carol’s past. I hesitate to call the men older adult “eye candy” but I don’t think any of them were on-screen for more than 10 minutes. They are merely there to support the shenanigans and provide a few heartwarming and comical moments as the plot (such as it were) unfolds.

Bottom line: Book Club: The Next Chapter is a feel-good female friendship movie with a solid ensemble cast of veteran actors who probably had a blast filming in Italy. By the time it was over (feeling a bit long, even with a running time under two hours), I was ready to fish out my own Italy pictures and book my next girls trip. In fact, The Next Chapter would be a good movie to watch on the plane. Accompanied by one of those mini bottles of wine. “Cin, Cin!”

Book Club: The Next Chapter opens in theaters on May 12.


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