Book Club: The Next Chapter is a directed by Bill Holderman, who helmed the first Book Club (2018), a film about a group of older women who read Fifty Shades of Grey. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen star as the ladies embark on a bachelorette vacation to Italy.

Freed from a plot that seemed written by E.L. James’s publicist, the sequel barely mentions a book (scant references are made to The Alchemist), in case you’re going to Book Club: The Next Chapter for the books. Instead, the film spends the majority of its runtime on several low-stakes, conflict-free, rather pedestrian adventures.

The best metaphor for Book Club: The Next Chapter is a sugar cube. It is sweet, there is absolutely no nutritional value, and it dissolves immediately. There is almost no character development except that which can be accomplished in a single “tough love” monologue, and the jokes are PG-13 sex references that fail to land. On the bright side, it looks like everyone involved had a great time.

The studio markets Book Club: The Next Chapter as a Mother’s Day movie, but perhaps a movie like Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, which has an actual mother, would be a better choice. Likewise, there are better movies about older female friendships (Steel Magnolias [1989]) and older female sexuality Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022).

Three of the four of these great actresses are Academy Award winners, and the fourth, Bergen, won five Emmys for Murphy Brown. If Book Club: The Next Chapter is an excuse for these amazing ladies to have a great time in Italy, then more power to them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make for a good film.