Film & Television

Four Weddings, A Funeral, and Two Streaming Duds

Netflix isn’t the only streaming service to come up short this month. And Hulu’s rambling and surprisingly dull reboot of Four Weddings and a Funeral probably sounded like a good idea too. The original, which came out 25 years ago, is one of the most beloved rom-coms of all time. Actress and writer Mindy Kaling, whose most recent project was the clever and sophisticated Emma Thompson comedy Late Night, has made it no secret that she loves the genre. Along with Matt Warburton, her colleague from The Mindy Project, and with oversight from Richard Curtis, whose credits include the original Four Weddings, as well as Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Love Actually, she’s adapted the story into a ten-episode series. With a team like that, what could go wrong? Quite a lot.

First of all, short of the title, the five events it alludes to, the London setting, and a cameo by Andie MacDowell, there is virtually no similarity to the original. Most of the main characters are ex-pat Americans, involved in the kind of high-profile jobs that afford them townhouses and lofts. (London real estate is outrageously expensive, but, apparently, no one has told these well-meaning young professionals that.) The cast includes Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones), a political speechwriter having an affair with her congressman employer, who runs away to live with Rebecca Rittenhouse (The Mindy Project), an interior decorator who’s engaged to Nikesh Patel (Indian Summers), an investment banker who’d rather be an actor, who works with Brandon Mychal Smith (You’re the Worst) who is best friends with schoolteacher John Reynolds (Stranger Things), but is living with Sophia La Porta (Ripper Street), a ditzy local girl who is the antithesis of snooty neighbor Zoe Boyle (Downton Abbey).

Phew! And that’s just the first episode.

The characters aren’t as quirky as Hugh Grant’s 1994 maritally challenged posse. And, with ten episodes to fill, the plot moves at a snail’s pace (there are five episodes available to stream now and we’ve only gotten through one wedding/bride left at the altar and the sole funeral). The dialogue is often clunky and the relationships are uninteresting.

There is, however, one reason to watch Four Weddings and a Funeral if, like Kaling, you’re a bona fide rom-com fanatic. (It’s also a solid premise for a drinking game, if you enjoy that sort of thing.) There are countless allusions to other (better) rom-coms throughout. Watch carefully and you’ll spot Lloyd Dobler holding up his boom box to declare his love. You’ll hear Billy Mack’s “Love Is All Around” on the radio. A couple will “meet cute” and then meet again in quite extraordinary circumstances. A couple will kiss passionately in the rain. That same couple will share a post-coital scene à Harry Burns and Sally Albright. Someone will run through a series of titles on poster boards. Someone else will sneak live musicians into a wedding ceremony.

I’m quite certain that I’ve missed some, but I’m probably not going to rewatch the series. On the other hand, it may have inspired me to revisit the original. Available on Netflix.

 

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