Fifteen years after she first stumbled onto our movie screens, Bridget Jones hasn’t changed too much. Thank goodness.
Sure, she’s lost weight and has a fulfilling job, but the lovable trainwreck is still there, drinking alone in her apartment while rapping along to House of Pain. On her birthday.
“Bridget Jones’s Baby” sometimes feels like a rehash of her previous adventures, as Bridget (welcome back, Renee Zellweger!) is once again torn between two lovers, one of whom is the perennial Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Mistakes and misunderstandings abound, in true romantic comedy fashion. It could get very tiresome, if only there weren’t so many talented people involved.
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Foremost is Zellweger herself, who balances Bridget’s innate flakiness with greater confidence. She’s still an oddball, but a more grown-up one, who doesn’t seem on the verge of falling apart all the time. She even lets a younger co-worker (Sarah Solemani) drag her out to a music festival, where she has sex with the only man there in her age bracket, a smooth American entrepreneur named Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey). Soon after, she hooks up with Mark again, because they just can’t stay away from each other.
It’s all in good fun, until the title offspring comes into the picture. Now 43, Bridget knows she may not have another chance at motherhood. If only she could figure out which near-perfect man is the father. (Well, she could find out through amniocentesis, but she can’t overcome her fear of that giant needle.)
Of course, it doesn’t really matter. The mystery only exists to set up a predictably false romantic quandary. We all know who Bridget belongs with, and it’s not some random guy she just met. Jack — like Dempsey — is too respectable to stand in for Hugh Grant’s caddish Daniel (whose departure is handled in amusing fashion). Instead, Jack is basically a trendy Yank version of Mark, whose biggest flaw is that he’s a little too devoted to Bridget and the baby. And he isn’t Colin Firth.
“Bridget Jones” novelist Helen Fielding diverges from her books here, collaborating on an original screenplay with Dan Mazer and the great Emma Thompson, who also has a scene-stealing supporting role. The biting wit of Fielding’s original creation is as strong as ever, complete with copious swearing and slapstick. Seeing Zellweger and Firth together again (along with several original co-stars) confirms the wisdom of casting them all those years ago. No wonder Dempsey, for all his charm, always seems like a party crasher.
Director Sharon Maguire returns after skipping 2004’s “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” and her style has evolved and matured along with her heroine’s. Even when she lets scenes run on too long, she does so in a way that helps viewers settle back into Bridget’s world. It’s a nice place to be.
Read more of freelancer Loey Lockerby’s reviews at suchacritic.com.
‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’
Rated R. Time: 2:03.