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'The People We Hate at the Wedding:' Kristen Bell Shines in Forgettable Christmas Comedy

Review: Kristen Bell, Ben Platt and Allison Janney bring a dash of charisma to this serviceable holiday comedy on Prime Video.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Expertise Film and TV Credentials
  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
3 min read
Ben Platt, Allison Janney and Kristen Bell in wedding outfits outdoors

Ben Platt, Allison Janney and Kristen Bell star in The People We Hate at the Wedding.

Amazon Studios

One of the best lines in The People We Hate at the Wedding comes about a third of the way through the new semi-Christmas comedy. It confirms screenwriters the Molyneux sisters understand the British culture they're depicting. Basically, they know that one of the greatest British films of all time -- 2014's Paddington -- isn't just a kids' movie.

Based on Grant Ginder's 2016 novel of the same name, The People We Hate at the Wedding bases most of its broad-hitting comedy in British-American culture clashes. Though director Claire Scanlon finds thoughtful moments commenting on unconventional family units and jealousy among siblings, almost every other aspect is predictable and packed with stereotypes. The more charisma-based comedic scenes are down to the excellent ensemble of Kristen Bell, Ben Platt and Allison Janney.

Watch The People We Hate at the Wedding on Prime Video

The People We Hate at the Wedding is technically a Christmas movie, opening with a syrupy violin score and a deep-voiced narrator who explains the fractured nature of the central family. Siblings Alice (Bell) and Paul (Platt) are scathingly jealous of rich, perfect English half-sister Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). They're deeply offended when she invites them to her wedding in England in the hopes of patching up past differences.

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

Meanwhile, the more conservative Paul dreads his adventurous boyfriend's (Karan Soni) plans to start having threesomes. Then there's Henrique (Isaach De Bankolé), Donna's (Janney) smarmy French ex-husband who's suddenly being overly nice to her. Janney gives her relatively quiet character a sense of loving compassion, but comedically she seems wasted with few opportunities to play off Bell and Platt.

A man and a woman shaking hands in their plane seats

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

Amazon Studios

Another sore point might be the cross-cultural representations: The Americans are all seemingly sloppy, brash chaos generators, while the British upper class are attractive, superior royals. The over-the-top stereotypes are rife: The British women at Eloise's bachelorette party are proudly named Moffy, Mimsy and Mitz. Still, this Hallmark world occasionally reveals a more interesting, edgier tint -- the bachelorettes repeat the C-bomb for fun and Alice's backstory is tinged with tragedy.

Themes of sibling jealousy and misunderstandings that alter an entire relationship are addressed satisfyingly, even if the message doesn't cut much beneath the skin. A soundtrack of cool British R&B and rock songs, from Joy Crookes to Wet Leg, creates a laid back, drinks-on-a-balcony vibe, helping the general package meet the brief of accessible comedy.

The People We Hate at the Wedding is mediocre at best, and it will probably soon become a ghost of Christmas movies past on Prime Video. Still, if you're after that warm holiday glow to permeate your living room, The People We Hate at the Wedding isn't the worst guest to invite round.

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

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