Bridget Jones's Baby (2016) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for language, sex references and some nudity
Running Time: 122 min.
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Sarah Solemani, Emma Thompson, Gemma Jones, Kate O'Flynn, Jim Broadbent, Shirley Henderson, James Callis
Small role: Ed Sheeran
Director: Sharon Maguire
Screenplay: Helen Fielder, Dan Mazer, Emma Thompson
Review published September 18, 2016
For longtime fans of the 2001's Bridget Jones's Diary movie, Bridget Jones's Baby will be seen as a sort of welcome feel-good return for the character, especially after the mostly unfunny disappointment of the second film in the series in 2004's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (don't bother, unless you're curious; it isn't necessary to watch before this entry). This entry not only brings back Renee Zellweger (Appaloosa, Leatherheads), Colin Firth (Kingsman, Before I Go to Sleep), and most of the series' smaller supporting players, but also enlists the services of the first film's director Sharon Maguire (Incendiary, Call Me Crazy) -- pretty much everyone but Hugh Grant's Daniel Cleaver (though his character is alluded to on a couple of occasions). This entry, set before Helen Fielding's action third Bridget Jones novel, "Mad About the Boy", plays up more of the cable-TV sitcom comedy (a la "Sex and the City") aspects of the premise.
The premise of Bridget Jones's Baby is, yet again, a love triangle. Bridget (Zellweger) is now 43 years old, alone and still living in the same flat in London -- no husband and no children -- working as a producer for a London televisions news program. On the urging of a friend and colleague, Bridget is cajoled into attending an outdoor music festival where people can expect to get laid, and often, where she soon meets a charismatic and good-looking American dating-site wunderkind named Jack Quant (Dempsey, Transformers: Dark of the Moon), with whom she decides to "have relations." About a week later, she runs into her reserved and refined old flame Mark Darcy (Firth), who says he's going through a divorce but still has feelings for her, and they also, "have relations." when Bridget ends up pregnant, it becomes an awkward situation, as she doesn't know which of the two appealing men will be the father, and if so, if they will accept the situation of responsibility.
The punchy script is credited to Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, along with Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Emma Thompson (who gets a supporting role as Bridget's obstetrician, who must bit her tongue as Bridget wrangles over what to do about her predicament while juggling both men with the notion that they are the father), and go-to ribald funnyman Dan Mazer, who also earned an Academy Award nomination for Borat. Although the premise of a woman who doesn't know the father has been the source of comedy on TV and other mediums for many years, romantic comedies surrounding middle-aged women encountering a "geriatric pregnancy", or one that deals with her feelings about ageism in the modern hipster-friendly work environment, is rare enough to keep the entire movie from feeling like completely well-worn goods. It takes some suspension of disbelief for the sake of the comedy to presume that the paternity test wouldn't have been done far, far sooner than the point when it takes place within the film, which needs to contrivance of ignorance in order to maintain the rivalry of suitors and the post-climax reveal (reportedly, several endings were filmed).
Zellweger, in her first prominent big-screen role in over a half-decade, still proves she has the chops for her most famous character that would end up earning her an Oscar nomination back in 2001, even if many who haven't seen her in a while think she barely looks the same in middle age as how they've always envisioned her in her 20s and 30s. I will admit, it takes a while to cotton back to her, but she's a terrific actress, and sells the performance in short order through her energy and keen awareness of her character's strengths and vulnerabilities. Nitpick: The "diary" aspect of the film doesn't quite make sense; if she were always in the habit of keeping a daily journal since we've met her (now done on an iPad), surely she would not recap her life to herself as much as she does. If she achieved her ideal weight, that would not need to be mentioned since that would have been done at the time she had been dieting and not years later.
While generally enjoyable in its own low-reaching way, the film's excessive length does make Bridget Jones outstay her return, which relies heavily on musical interludes and an overly on-the-nose jukebox soundtrack to drive a good deal of the film's tone and vibe when the story and characters themselves should be doing the brunt of the work instead. The three screenwriters, who seem to have all given individual passes on the script rather than collaborated together, make the plot and jokes feel schizophrenic, something being wry and witty (probably Thompson), and others being slapstick-y, broad and too cheerfully rude (no doubt Mazer). Such scenes as a hasty ride in a cramped pizza-delivery car with an Italian stereotype at the wheel feel forced and unnecessary, trying to inject a big laugh set-piece in between moments that were flirting dangerously with being sentimental and semi-serious.
While Bridget Jones's Baby isn't the sort of sequel that's chock full of original ideas or plausible developments, many fans of the first entry will enjoy this long-in-coming follow-up a welcome, nostalgic return for a few additional laughs at a formula rom-com done reasonably well. If the film is a reasonable hit, there's no reason to think that a fourth film, perhaps an adaptation of "Mad About the Boy", won't come out in a few years.