“The People We Hate at the Wedding:” a mostly forgettable Christmas comedy

One of the best lines in The people we hate at the wedding comes in about a third of new semi-Christmas comedy. Show the writers that the Molyneux sisters understand the British culture they are representing. Crucially, they know that one of the greatest British films of all time – 2014’s Paddington – isn’t just a film for children.

Based on Grant Ginder’s 2016 novel of the same name, The People We Hate at the Wedding bases much of its blockbuster comedy on British-American culture clashes. Though director Claire Scanlon finds reflective moments commenting on unconventional family units and sibling jealousy, nearly every other aspect is predictable and riddled with stereotypes. The more charismatic comedic moments are due to the excellent ensemble of Kristen Bell, Ben Platt and Allison Janney.

The people we hate at marriage is technically a Christmas movie, which opens with a syrupy violin score and a deep-voiced narrator explaining the fractured nature of the central family. Siblings Alice (Bell) and Paul (Platt) are fiercely jealous of their wealthy and perfect English stepsister Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). They are deeply offended when she invites them to her wedding in England in hopes of settling past differences.

Playing the terse and cynical Alice, Bell is reminiscent of her legendary character Eleanor Shellstrop from The Good Place. Yet her storyline, aside from one fun twist, is mostly routine. She has a chance meeting with sweet Dennis (Dustin Milligan, aka Ted of Schitt’s Creek), but she foolishly continues to pine for her unavailable married boss (Jorma Taccone).

Meanwhile, the more conservative Paul fears his adventurous boyfriend’s (Karan Soni) plans to start having threesomes. Then there’s Henrique (Isaach De Bankolé), Donna’s (Janney) slimy French ex-husband who is suddenly too nice to her. Janney gives her relatively quiet character a sense of loving compassion, but comically she seems wasted with little opportunity to play Bell and Platt.

A man and a woman shake hands on an airplane seat

Dennis (Dustin Milligan) and Alice (Kristen Bell) meet cute on a plane.

Amazon Studios

Another sore point might be cross-cultural representations: Americans are all seemingly sloppy and brash chaos-makers, while the British upper class are real attractive and superior. Exaggerated stereotypes are the order of the day: British ladies at Eloise’s bachelorette party are proudly named Moffy, Mimsy and Mitz. However, this Hallmark world occasionally reveals a more interesting and edgier tint: The Bachelorettes repeat the A-bomb for fun, and Alice’s backstory is tinged with tragedy.

The themes of sibling jealousy and misunderstandings that alter an entire relationship are addressed satisfactorily, even if the message doesn’t cut under the skin very much. A soundtrack of cool British rock and R&B tunes, from Joy Crookes to Wet Leg, creates a relaxed, balcony-drinks vibe, helping the overall package meet the demands of approachable comedy.

The People We Hate at the Wedding is mediocre at best and will likely soon become a ghost of past Christmas movies on Prime Video. However, if you’re looking for that warm Christmas glow to permeate your living room, The People We Hate at the Wedding isn’t the worst guest to invite.

The People We Hate at the Wedding hits Prime Video on Friday.

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