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Four Weddings and a Funeral Review: Not Your Auntie's Rom-com

Mindy Kaling's adaptation of Richard Curtis' classic doesn't quite hit the mark.

Krutika Mallikarjuna

Hulu's Four Weddings and a Funeral reboot has very little in common with Richard Curtis's 1994 classic. The original is cited as one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, and garnered two Academy Award nominations for the film's innovative shake-up of romantic tropes. Starring a perfectly coiffed Hugh Grant, the movie follows a group of British friends over the course of four weddings and a funeral as they all look for love in the wrong places. The film's quiet British sensibility married with likable protagonists who do unlikeable things skyrocketed the film into the pantheon of classics. Here was a rom-com that wasn't afraid to mix the bitter right into the sweet. Four Weddings and a Funeral was never meant to be a fairy tale, but rather, slices of life in which forgiveness is just as powerful, sometimes even more so, as love.

Hulu's reimagining, created by American rom-com aficionado Mindy Kaling, checks all the right boxes but never quite hits the right tone. Kaling's deep love of rom-coms -- Curtis' in particular -- is obvious right from the pilot. There are nods to famous scenes like the flashcards in Love Actually and the boombox from Say Anything. There's a nearly textbook meet-cute between the show's two leads Maya (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Kash (Nikesh Patel) that has you clutching your bosom in agony when it's later revealed that Kash is engaged to Maya's best friend. There's a picture-perfect backdrop of London which is dreamy and romantic, especially in the rain. But as the series stretches on (the first seven were screened for critics), the show meanders farther and farther from what made the original so special.

Nathalie Emmanuel Plays the Game of Love in Mindy Kaling's Four Weddings and a Funeral Trailer

The main group of friends in Kaling's adaptation are inexplicably American. Inspired by a college semester studying abroad, three of them move to London, with one (Maya) staying behind in the States for both love and a political career. When the series picks up, Maya is headed to London for Ainsley's (Rebecca Rittenhouse) wedding to a fiancé she hasn't met yet, and mulling over the state of her secret relationship with her married boss. By the end of the pilot, Ainsley and Kash's wedding has fallen apart, Maya finds out she's one of many mistresses and moves to London permanently, Duffy (John Paul Reynolds) can't find the words to tell Maya he loves her (even after decades), and Craig (Brandon Mychal Smith) is engaged to a British woman named after a fast-fashion retailer.

While each episode that contains one of the main five events (the titular four weddings and funeral) serves us up something close to the emotional impact of the original, the episodes in between feel too watered down to say anything. In the pilot for example, Kash's decision to leave Ainsley at the altar (wedding number one) might seem purely selfish, triggered by his spark with Maya. But as a British Pakistani man who has given up most of his other adult dreams to care for his ailing father and teenage brother, Kash's decision is the move of a man trying to claim a small piece of his life for himself.

Four Weddings and a Funeral

Maya (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Kash (Nikesh Patel)

Jay Maidment/Hulu

In fact, the best part of Hulu's reboot is how much dramatic tension diversifying the cast added to the story. Kash's family and friends are a fierce injection of not only much needed Britishness, but also many different definitions of what love means and how people find it. There's not only an incredible storyline examining what successful love in arranged marriages looks like in 2019, but also of how easily immigrant families can and will adapt if their children choose other paths. The classic angst of an intergenerational Bollywood family drama married to a quiet British rom-com that stars adulterers is honestly a match made in heaven.

But when the show takes those very dramatic slices of life -- betrayal at the altar, a woman confronting her in-laws after the death of her husband, forgiving a friend at a reception because you've grown the f--k up -- and tries to string them together over 10 hours, the emotional impact becomes incredibly dulled. The audience is waylaid by Duffy's self-pitying monologues, Craig's discovery of a daughter he never knew he had, and Maya's difficulties fitting into the British political sphere. There's ultimately too much dead weight to wade through for it to live up to Curtis' original. It's a shame because the cast is so talented (if you haven't seen Smith in You're the Worst, please stop what you're doing and go watch now), but they're playing characters who are so rote in their responses and reactions that they feel more like rom-com caricatures than homages. If the show's runtime had been cut in half, every main character could have sparkled the way all of the secondary and tertiary characters do. But alas, you'll have to wade through some murky waters to get some truly inspired storylines (among them, a great parody ofLove Island).

Mindy Kaling Was 'Terrified' to Turn Four Weddings and a Funeral Into a Series

At the end of the day it's because Curtis, a brilliant romance writer, and Kaling, also a brilliant romance writer, have styles that don't quite mesh. Where Curtis uses enigma -- shout out to Andie MacDowell -- Kaling uses bombastic declarations. Where Curtis stews in emotion, Kaling swiftly pivots the plot. Where Curtis investigates damaged love, Kaling investigates damaged friendships. One tone isn't necessarily better than the other, but Hulu's version feels undeniably like Kaling dialing herself back to fit into a voice that she loves, but doesn't always agree with.

Overall, Four Weddings and a Funeral has some standout characters, storylines, and chemistry, but never manages to coalesce those disparate elements into a rom-com that's as indelible as the original. But for the person who's seen Bridget Jones, To All the Boys, and Love Actually too many times to watch again, Four Weddings and a Funeral offers up a story about the different roots of love (romantic and platonic) that's worth watching -- if not bingeing.

TV Guide Rating: 3/5

Four Weddings and a Funeral premieres Wednesday, July 31 on Hulu.