Forget the forgetful sequel to the original "Bridget Jones's Diary": "Bridget Jones's Baby" (opening Friday, Sept. 16), is the more worthy successor to the hit 2001 comedy. Renee Zellweger - truly a sight for sore eyes - reprises her Oscar-nominated role, with original "Diary" director Sharon Maguire back on board as well to deliver the ongoing foibles of everybody's favorite train-wreck, Bridget Jones.
It's been over 12 years since we last saw Bridget, and it doesn't look like much has changed. Now in her 40s, she's still single, having never been able to land the straight-laced gentleman, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth, reprising his role as well). She works at the broadcast TV news station "Hard News," and her best friend is on-air personality, Miranda (Sarah Solemani). Sensing that Bridget needs a good "shafting," Miranda takes her friend to some sort of outdoor, overnight festival where they go "glamping" (like "glamorous camping," but as Bridget points out, putting "gl" in front of a word doesn't make it better..."Gladolf Hitler," she points out, is no improvement). After getting wasted, Bridget stumbles into the wrong tent and meets McDreamy himself, the heartthrob Jack (Patrick Dempsey), and the two have "relations." It's a one-night stand, and the next day she happens upon Mark Darcy, fresh off a divorce. One thing leads to another and...well, they too, have "relations."
Spinning the original love triangle concept from the first movie (which was itself based on a book that was based on Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice), Bridget finds that she is pregnant, but isn't able to determine which of her two beaus could be the father. Because this is a romantic comedy, she avoids clarifying anything with either of them, in order to give us a few hilariously uncomfortable scenes where she tries to juggle both relationships at once.
Renee Zellweger still has it, and is so effective, so endearing, as Bridget Jones, that the Academy should do right by considering her once again for an Oscar. Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey are both charming if one-dimensional, both representing the normal choices for love that women in these types of movies are often faced with: Do I go for the partner that makes the most sense, or do I go for what my heart is really telling me? The heart wins out again, with logic turning up the loser once more. There is a very funny cameo from musician Ed Sheeran (Bridget has a chance to engage in conversation with him at a bar, but has no idea who he is) and Emma Thompson is a scene-stealer as Bridget's unapproving doctor. Bridget's parents are back as well (played by Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent), but many of the laughs are derived between the three pillars (Zellweger, Firth and Dempsey) that prop the film up.
Is it perfect? No. Does it make a lot of sense? Not really. But "Bridget Jones's Baby" is a welcome addition to the rom-com family, and is sure to please fans of the character and previous movies. In the midst of all of the R-rated silliness, the movie also attempts to say something about superficiality: While Bridget is trying to figure out if she can have a meaningful relationship with the surface qualities that Jack represents, the world around her is facing the same struggles. The news station's new boss (a wonderfully chilly Kate O'Flynn) is steering away from any real hard news, and Bridget's politician mom is trying to win an election based on a slogan, while Darcy is representing a "really important" socio-political movement in court, one that the other characters view as annoying and trivial despite its obvious importance. Not that you'll notice these themes, but they're there, for further proof that this is a well-crafted comedy working on more than just one level.
The story ends up going exactly where you think it will, while at the same time throwing a few curve balls. Most intriguingly, it ends on what appears to be a cliff-hanger, one that begs for yet another chapter of Bridget Jones's story to be written. "Bridget Jones's Baby" does enough to warrant another movie, and here's hoping that it catapults Renee Zellweger back into the stratosphere of Hollywood stars, where she belongs.
Genre: Comedy, Drama. Romance
Run Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Jim Broadbent
Directed by Sharon Maguire ("Bridget Jones's Diary")
Opens locally on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016
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