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Review: ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ Doesn’t Send a Gift


Rom-coms are supposed to have a sense of inevitability. It’s the journey, not the destination. Shopgirl and NY152 will always get together, even if it takes Kathleen and Joe all of “You’ve Got Mail” to do so. Someone may run through an airport, or race through the streets on New Year’s Eve, or give a rousing and personal speech, and that process is the beauty of the genre.

The winding path to the rain-soaked kiss is the whole joy of the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” But the path of the TV show “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” beginning Wednesday on Hulu, is dreary and predictable. If the audience isn’t having any fun, and the characters don’t seem to be having any fun, what’s the point?

The show, which has almost nothing in common with the film except for a London setting, comes from the creators Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton, but without any of the clever sparks they brought to “The Mindy Project.” Though it is set in England, the four main characters are American. They are allegedly best friends, but no one has anything in common nor do any of them have any chemistry, platonic or romantic. The inevitable couple seems like a bad match, and no two characters seem like they’re on the same show. Do not go to the chapel; do not get married.

Part of the draw of the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” released in 1994, is that it’s about the fun crowd, the viciously funny and raucous group you wish you were sitting with at weddings, rolling your eyes at the stuffy ceremony but later dancing with abandon. I would not want to sit with any of the characters in this adaptation. Everyone is either lousy or boring or both.

There’s Maya (Nathalie Emmanuel, “Game of Thrones”), a political speechwriter whose relationship with her married boss blows up, so she decides to join her college crew in London. She never mentions a work visa, and even though she’s a speechwriter her own dialogue is brittle at best. Emmanuel seems lost and a little too wounded — she never gives Maya enough guts to be funny.

Then there’s Ainsley (Rebecca Rittenhouse, “The Mindy Project”), whose parents pay for her apartment and design business, where she nonetheless feels comfortable calling her employees “Tony 1” and “Tony 2.” Her boyfriend, Kash (Nikesh Patel), dreams of a different life completely. Ainsley’s made one friend in England, Gemma (Zoe Boyle, “Downton Abbey”), whom she actually seems to hate.

Carrying a torch for Maya since college is Duffy (John Reynolds, “Search Party”), a barely competent teacher who has Hugh Grant hair and glasses but none of the actual haplessness. He wants to be a novelist, would you believe it? Finally there’s Craig (Brandon Mychal Smith, “You’re The Worst”), a fashion-conscious banker who is in love with a woman so cartoonish she goes on the show’s equivalent of “Love Island.”

Almost no conflict arises, because conflict requires friction and friction acts on mass — none of the characters have any weight whatsoever. A sneeze could destroy this entire series. Liking “Mamma Mia” is not a personality. Wanting to publish a short story in The New Yorker does not make you interesting. Wishing you were an actor instead of a banker is not inherently cool. Living off your parents’ largess, ungratefully, is not adorkable.

One reason the show is so lifeless is that none of the characters listen to one another. There are occasional solid zingers, but they’re not considered jokes within the show. When Ainsley bails on Gemma, Gemma’s doting husband is incensed and decides to confront Ainsley about it. “You’ve hurt the feelings of the best person I’ve ever known, and I know Hugh Laurie,” he spits. That’s a good line. Who could hear someone say that and not have any kind of reaction? Oh, just one of the main characters.

“Four Weddings and a Funeral” asks us to buy a lot of hokey nonsense, and sure, I’ll accept people being way too good at dressing up for costume parties and having laughably stupid habits of writing longhand letters that never get sent. But I will not accept being subjected to a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You” that is meant to be evocative. It’s 2019! I refuse.

The show is a strange misfire at every level. The self-conscious references to other rom-coms make it seem even worse in comparison, and Andie McDowell’s appearance as Ainsley’s mother — not as her character from the original “Four Weddings” — is just a reminder of how far the show has strayed from the light. Even the funeral isn’t very sad.

Four Weddings and a Funeral

Wednesdays on Hulu


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