One of the most unexpected resurrections of an existing film has recently occurred in the US, in the form of a TV series nominally based on the 1994 film of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Co-created by Mindy Kaling, it features entirely new characters and storylines, although Andie MacDowell returns in an unrelated role. Those of us who were hoping that a spin-off would feature Simon Callow reprising his role as the irrepressible Gareth in spirit form are likely to be disappointed. Instead, the series features the lives and loves of a series of glamorous-looking twenty-something American and English women and men, in a form that anyone who has watched a similar programme at some point in the past quarter-century will undoubtedly recognise.

The reviews were, unsurprisingly, bad, with plenty of critics questioning why, exactly, a spin-off of a much-loved film had precisely nothing to do with its progenitor, despite some rather heavy-handed attempts to suggest synergy, such as the presence of Richard Curtis as executive producer, the casting of MacDowell and prominent use of “Love Is All Around Me” in an early scene. It remains to be seen whether it will be broadcast in the UK or not, a surprising decision given the instant recognisability of the brand name, but one happy side-effect of its existence is to remind us all of the film, and just what an excellent and consistently successful piece of cinema it is.

Twenty five years on, a rewatch of Four Weddings throws up surprises and new pleasures, just as it reminds the viewer of the now familiar, even iconic moments. The opening outbreak of swearing; Rowan Atkinson’s useless priest; John Hannah’s recitation of Auden’s “Stop all the clocks”. All have rightly become regarded as classic scenes and set-pieces. Yet there are smaller and, dare one say it, more impressive moments scattered throughout, many of which can be easily missed on first, second or third viewing. One critic was ridiculed upon its release for comparing Curtis’s writing to Chekhov, but, in his juggling of comedy and tragedy, there is an assurance that none of his subsequent work has quite managed, although I have a soft spot for About Time, a moving and rather powerful look at father-son relationships masquerading as a romantic comedy.

Four Weddings manages to make the lives and loves of a group of privileged thirty-something Londoners seem both universal and vividly real; we have all met a Charles, a Scarlett and a Gareth, and even if the rich-but-thick Tom and the effortlessly stylish and lovelorn Fiona come from a more rarefied strata of society, the excellence of James Fleet and Kristin Scott Thomas’s performances make them seem, if only for a couple of hours, like the platonic ideal of friends we could all wish to have.

There are many, many things to praise about Four Weddings, but it is by no means a perfect film. Andie MacDowell is wooden and hopelessly out of her depth in the near-impossible role of Carrie, Charles’s inamorata, and lacks the charm and likeability that she brought to Groundhog Day a couple of years earlier. Much as I enjoy Simon Callow’s gusto and brio in the role of Gareth, it seems churlish of Curtis not to give him a brief moment of self-doubt, a humanising touch in the midst of his over-the-top theatricality. It may be a reflection of the times, but in a film otherwise painstakingly inclusive, there is something a trifle surreal about there not being a single black or Asian character or even noticeable presence in its universe. And those who are allergic to Elton John may find there to be rather too much of his dulcet tones on the soundtrack.

Set against this are its obvious, and less obvious, charms. It is a pity that Hugh Grant, who is currently having a spectacular renaissance as a character actor, was typecast in variants on the hopeless bumbler thereafter, because he is sublimely good, managing to make his useless protagonist both likeable and entirely punchable. Apparently he was Curtis’s second choice for the role, after Alex Jennings; no offence to the peerlessly talented Jennings, but it is impossible to imagine the film working nearly as well with another leading man. Although Curtis’s script is sublime, credit also has to go to the director Mike Newell. He resists the temptation to make things too glossy, using hand-held cameras and what seems like a good deal of natural light, which brings a welcome sense of realism and cinematic brio to the table. And, of course, it’s funny. Properly funny. Even after repeated viewings, certain scenes – Grant stuck in the room during a vigorous wedding consummation, or the sheer awfulness of Rupert Vansittart’s bore – never fail to amuse and delight once again.

As I was writing this feature, the man in front of me started – entirely by chance – to talk to his daughter about the film, which he treated with the reverence and respect that any modern-day classic deserves. Once I had got over my initial shock and surprise at the bizarre serendipity of our meeting of minds – it could have been scripted by Curtis himself – it seemed right to think that the film has left a substantial legacy. It can be talked of in the same breath as The Apartment and Annie Hall – no mean achievement – and promises to remain a classic. Something which, alas, no television spin-off can ever really be expected to manage, no matter how noble its intentions.