MOVIE REVIEW: Bridget Jones's Baby
“BRIDGET JONES’S BABY”-- 3 STARS
There’s a throwaway line in the middle of “Bridget Jones’s Baby” where a character declares that a certain international smash hit song from 2012 “suddenly feels less catchy” during an aside shared between Renee Zellweger’s titular heroine and Colin Firth’s long-time object of affection Mark Darcy. Admittedly, much of Sharon Maguire’s film is tremendously silly with humor and pop culture references that will age likely as poorly as its stars. But, dammit, you will sure laugh. For every one moment that you roll your eyes, you’ll be met with three more instances where you laugh at loud and five more where you do both. That’s all you need from a Bridget Jones film to be thoroughly entertained.
In a curious and semi-bold choice, original novelist Helen Fielding teamed with actress Emma Thompson and frequent Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Dan Mazer to create a new cinematic trajectory for Bridget Jones. The trio chose not to adapt Fielding’s third official novel in the series, “Bridget Jones: Mad About A Boy,” which takes place 14 years after “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” and follows a widowed, 51-year old Jones treading through online dating and social media while raising two children alone after Darcy passes away. Imagine that.
Instead, “Bridget Jones’s Baby” changes the fates and futures significantly. Academy Award winner Renee Zellweger returns to her signature role as the character celebrates her 43rd birthday unmarried and without children, two facts her close and crass collection of friends never let her forget. The rascally Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) is out of the picture (literally and figuratively, you’ll see) and buttoned-up barrister Mark Darcy (Firth) has moved on to marry another woman.
Free from the quest to chase Mark or Daniel, Bridget has herself up off the coach and immersed with improved respect at work as a television producer alongside her news anchor and fresh new BFF Miranda (Sarah Solemani). When the two take a wacky girls-only trip to a muddy yurt-filled music festival, Bridget runs into a sleeps with the princely, rich American relationship expert Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), but escapes to avoid future sparks. Back home, in the same week, she encounters a damaged Mark, confessing his unforgotten feelings and pending divorce, and the two consummate their feelings with a hot, one-time shag in the sheets.
Bridget soon discovers she is pregnant and the calendar mathematics from her stiffly sardonic obstetrician Dr. Rawling (Thompson) slot the conception at the very same week of her double relations. Plucky-yet-petrified in her trademark independence, Bridget refuses the early paternity testing and schemes to delay telling anyone anything. Sure enough, those lies build up and backfire.
“Bridget Jones’s Baby” brings us back to the cherished romantic comedy territory established by the first 2001 film while wisely ignoring the disastrous 2004 sequel. The film dives into many episodes of subplots, competitions, and entanglements that leave us guessing who the father is and, more importantly, who deserves to Bridget’s love until the very end. At 47, 56, and 50 years of age respectively, Zellweger, Firth, and Dempsey (and even Hugh Grant’s 56, if he was present) are all a little too old to play young 40-somethings. Maguire and her cast missed their chance to capitalize a decade ago at its fullest potential, but the new love triangle duel and nostalgia factor work to engross a new audience.
As always, Zellweger sells the Jones fluster in true fearless fashion and Firth can do no wrong. This film trades Grant’s sarcasm for Dempsey’s alluring gleam. Score that a draw or a slight trade up, depending on your taste, in sex appeal, but a loss in the pure comedy department. Many of the biggest laughs come the roster of scene-stealers old (Sally Phillips, James Callis, Shirley Henderson, and Neil Pearson) and new (Solemani, Thompson, and a ruthless hipster boss played by Kate O’Flynn). Case in point, I will crow with laughter every single time an underage child swears in a movie. Guilty as charged.
Throw in the steady grins provided by Bridget’s parents, played again by Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent, and the sequel becomes a crowded ensemble, even if it’s just to touch base and deliver a joke from a different point of view. Add a zillion blunt musical song drops for playful dalliances of over-obvious effect, and the final running time elapses two hours, exposing plenty of places that could have been trimmed. But, again, all that being said, this energetic film is still a riot.
Tongues are inserted into cheeks at a rapid-fire pace in “Bridget Jones’s Baby. The euphemisms, drollery, puns, wild physical gags, and self-deprecating farce originate from all directions and target anyone with eyes and a smile. The writing is harebrained in the most smart and witty ways possible and, trust me, that is a compliment. Better yet, when it needs to, the movie turns off the jokes and hits you with the necessary heart to make all the silly stuff enormously endearing.
LESSON #1: CALL AN AMBULANCE IF YOU ARE IN LABOR-- Good Lord, do none of Britain’s extensive emergency medical services roam the streets of London at night? Come on. You’re just piling the hurdles in front of our heroine for twisted fun at that point (and extending the running time).
LESSON #2: TELL THE TRUTH-- With the wavering Bridget Jones, you can never tell if it’s flightiness, uncertainty, or both that lead her to lie as much as she does, not only to herself but the many people supportive of her. Many of her social and relationship hazards (and 45 minutes of plot) could be avoided by telling the truth. Don’t lead people on. It only gets worse.
LESSON #3: BABIES CHANGE EVERYTHING-- Oh my, ain’t this the truth? Not only do babies change your day-to-day homes and routines in tumultuous ways, but they also change the loving capacity of hearts. A baby makes devotion more important and less singularly selfish to the people/parents (however many there are) that bring the baby into the world, uniting them in a deeper way.