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'Four Weddings and a Funeral' review: Light-as-air remake with appealing cast

Nathalie Emmanuel stars in Hulu's "Four Weddings and

Nathalie Emmanuel stars in Hulu's "Four Weddings and a Funeral." Credit: Hulu / Jay Maidment

SERIES "Four Weddings and a Funeral"

WHEN|WHERE Starts streaming Wednesday on Hulu

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Maya (Nathalie Emmanuel, "Game of Thrones") is a communications director for — and also lover of — a senator from New York who turns out to be a two-timing creep. Badly disillusioned, she heads to London, where some college friends, like Duffy (John Reynolds), Craig (Brandon Mychal Smith) and Ainsley (Rebecca Rittenhouse, currently starring as Michelle Phillips in "Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood"), are living. But en route, she meets Kash (Nikesh Patel), a handsome investment banker, and she is smitten all over again. Some weddings and a funeral ensue.

Mindy Kaling and veteran producer Jonathan Prince ("American Soul") created this adaptation of the 1994 big-screen hit, with an assist from Richard Curtis, who also wrote the original. 

MY SAY How do you take something that was light as a balloon in the first place, then stretch it out over 12 episodes? You make a stretchy balloon (that's how) and hope it doesn't pop in the process. Not as easy as it sounds, either. The original movie doesn't offer much of a road map because the entire plot was given away in the title, albeit slightly out of order (three weddings, then a funeral and finally that last wedding). The rest of the thing was a master class in effective screen chemistry (Andie MacDowell's and Hugh Grant's). 

Enter this TV remake, which nearly pops in the first five minutes and (nearly) again in the last five minutes of the opener. After that, "Four Weddings" steadies itself, and forges bravely ahead — an unapologetic romcom that embraces all the cliches of the genre absent, at least consistently, all of its charms. 

The movie is a quarter-century old, so for a quick refresher, Charles (Grant) is late to a wedding where he is hapless best man, and there he meets Carrie (MacDowell), a mysterious and alluring American. He falls in love, she later marries a member of the peerage and they ultimately end up in each other's arms.

In homage, the remake opens with the same expletive, repeated a few times over (fans of the movie will recall which one), then heads off in an entirely different direction, mostly by turning into a love triangle (Duffy loves Maya who loves Kash.) There are weddings, and funerals (the fourth episode), but resemblances between this and the movie are otherwise largely coincidental or fleeting. (By the way, MacDowell does turn up briefly in the third episode, as Ainsley's mother.) Emmanuel's Maya, in fact, is the exact opposite of MacDowell's Carrie, and Reynolds' Duffy is only vaguely reminiscent of Grant's Charles. And don't forget that Maya loves Kash, but this also holds out the possibility that she could end up with Duffy by the 12th episode, too, so . . .

Enough already. I'm losing you, and "Four Weddings" may lose you, too. But do first consider that non-apology. Kaling's bet here is that there are already plenty of hard-edged dramas with hard-edged, difficult themes on TV. Why not room (or time) for a romcom balloon? It's one of her genuine strengths, after all, and she's got the right cast for the job — each appealing, with the requisite dazzling smile, and more than enough chemistry to keep the balloon afloat. Fans of Reynolds ("Stranger Things," "Search Party") will like him here, too, and so will Emmanuel's, who will almost forget (if not quite) that Maya was our beloved Missandei just a few short months ago.

BOTTOM LINE Uneven start, then improves and coasts. Appealing cast, zero calories.

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