‘The People We Hate at the Wedding’ Review of Kristen Bell, Ben Platt Comedy

For some, the term “wedding season”—which I’ve always found to be meaningless, as people are getting married all the damn time, especially as I start to close the book on my twenties—conjures up an image of joyous celebration.

For those people, weddings are a chance to come together and celebrate love in its most grand and socially acceptable way. And for others, it means preparing for a slew of stuffy, hellacious, and bank-breaking obligations; a “chance” to come together with 200 strangers, all on a spectrum of sweatiness, to mindlessly observe a ceremony, do the Cha-Cha Slide, eat dry chicken, and hopefully take advantage of an open bar before a long-practiced Irish goodbye.

I fall firmly in the first camp. What can I say? I love love, it’s the Ugly Betty fan in me. Throw a couple up before their family and friends and I’m a teary mess. And if they write their own vows? Forget about it. The caterers will hear me sobbing from the on-premises kitchen. I believe in the power of love so hard that it offends the family of the groom I’ve never met, who are actually trying to remember this day and not edit out the sounds of my sniffles in post.

The People We Hate at the Wedding, out today on Prime Video, was made for people like me, the ones looking to feel a little less bad about their own behavior during nuptials. Based on the novel by Grant Ginder, the film follows a dysfunctional family who gather for the first time in years for the family’s eldest sibling Eloise’s (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) destination wedding.

Alice (Kristen Bell) and Paul (Ben Platt) have chips on their shoulder about Eloise, who is their half-sibling and got all of her father’s money, because they’re children from their mother Donna’s (Allison Janney) second marriage. Donna, meanwhile, is so excited that she’s nearly bursting at the seams. But the minute everyone touches down in London, the lingering familial tensions set everyone aflame.

The film is a breezy and well-paced comedy, beautifully shot on-location in England (no more COVID-era green screens, please!). While the jokes don’t push the envelope as far as they should to make The People We Hate Hate at the Wedding the uber-raunchy comedy it’s billed as in its marketing, the mixture of heart and laughter whips into one fluffy, cinematic meringue: sweet and airy, but gone as soon as it’s consumed.

When Alice and Paul were growing up, they always loved when Eloise would visit them in the summer. Her rich father would send her across the Atlantic with a few thousand dollars in her pocket, which meant Alice and Paul could experience a life different from their own modest, budget-conscious one. But as they grew older, they also grew resentful of those differences. Eloise stopped showing up, and eventually, everyone retreated to different parts of the world.

But Eloise’s wedding is the perfect opportunity to get the band back together. Or so Donna thinks, as she repeatedly tells Alice and Paul while badgering them with nonstop texts and calls, begging them to attend. Alice, who is stuck in a dead-end assistant job and sleeping with her married boss (Jorma Taccone), figures she can use the wedding as a way to get away together without their coworkers knowing. Meanwhile, Paul has been put on leave from his OCD therapist position and lives in perpetual fear of his boyfriend, Dominic (Karan Soni), asking for an open relationship. With Alice needing a romantic getaway and Paul craving a reason to strengthen his romance, the two siblings relent, throw on a stiff upper lip, and jet off to England.

Chaos ensues almost immediately. Alice’s resentment of Eloise—leftover from the previous summer after a family tragedy—starts to simmer at their first family dinner, and Paul is stuck staying with Dominic’s old, incredibly handsome college professor at Dominic’s behest. While the two of them work through their own discord at bachelorette parties and bro-pubs, Donna reignites an old flame with Henrique (Isaach de Bankolé), Eloise’s father and her first husband. You know what they say, love makes everyone act strangely!

Bell and Platt deftly lend their signature comedic skills to their characters’ predicaments. Bell unleashes her patented millennial snark all along the Thames, while Platt sprinkles a dash of lovable neuroses into his open-relationship panic. The two of them are the film’s demonic duo, sharing unbelievably natural sibling chemistry. Everyone else is just as game—particularly Janney, who has some delightful physical comedy after consuming four edibles—but when Platt and Bell are together on screen, they can’t help but make this wedding all about themselves.

Still, punchlines feel like they could land harder, and bit jokes need to go further. There are plenty of moments that elicit a light-to-heavy chuckle, but nothing reaches the all-out cackle of a film like Bridesmaids—a movie that also balances boisterous bridal humor with a hefty dose of heart.

Despite being a bit tamer than one might expect for an R-rated, streaming comedy, The People We Hate at the Wedding finds its sweetest spots in that halfway point between wit and wisdom. Thank the Molyneux sisters—the pair behind The Great North, who have written plenty of fan-favorite episodes of Bob’s Burgers—for that. Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin and Wendy Molyneux’s script captures the rhythm and unassuming charm of the lighthearted animated fare they’re known for.

With so much family tension being unleashed as soon as wheels touch down at Heathrow, it might seem, at first, like there isn’t enough material to keep The People We Hate at the Wedding chugging along until Eloise’s big day. But the film’s cast rises to the occasion, filling in occasional script gaps with enough charm for a near-seamless watch. And it wouldn’t be a wedding without some unexpected appearances, courtesy of some very fun cameos. Unlike a slab of rich and expensive reception cake, The People We Hate at the Wedding is mild and velvety, if a little underbaked—the perfect selection for a sugary treat you’ll forget you ate two hours later when you’re hungry again.

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