Trier’s sense of humor helps a lot here, and even though the narrative this time out is more straightforward than in Dogville and the shock quotient lower, the ending still reproaches liberal condescension with considerable punch. The snappier pacing is very noticeable, but it’s somewhat lamentable, too, since the characterizations tend to be less fully calculated to sting the liberal-minded viewer’s assumptions. Grace is the lone exception, here acting more as an individual with an agenda of her own than in Dogville, which seems to limit Manderlay’s overall ambiguity (even if her meddling is necessary for the central allegory to work).
Complaints, aside, it's an extremely solid, if less than astonishing, piece of work. Second-rate Dogville is still first-rate by any other rule, apparently.