Bridget Jones’s Baby
(UK/USA) Romance/Comedy. Directed by Sharon Maguire. Starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey. Category IIB. 123 minutes. Opened Sep 15.
It’s been 12 years since audiences across the world were last caught up in the will-they-or-won’t-they saga between Renée Zellweger’s eccentric Bridget Jones and Colin Firth’s buttonedup but charming Mark Darcy. This time, Bridget has risen through the professional ranks from a cog in the publishing machine to a producer on an evening news show. Now in her 40s, she’s once again unattached, and this time she’s slimmed down to her “ideal weight.” Her squad has evolved from cocktail-ready gal-pals into baby-toting benchwarmers, who are following her sexy single life from the sidelines. After pledging to a life of hedonism after her 43rd birthday, Jones engages in a night of passion with mysterious American Jack (Patrick Dempsey) at a music festival, and a week later hooks up with her ex, Mark Darcy. She finds herself pregnant, and must figure out who the father is while juggling both their affections, in her signature awkward fashion. Oh, Bridget! When will you learn?!
In 2001, Bridget Jones was a revelatory protagonist for a generation of women who adored the grand comedic romances of the ‘90s, while feeling disenfranchised by the parade of wafer-thin leading ladies whose only flaws were that they were too career-minded. Bridget, at a solid size 12, was painfully awkward, earnest to a fault, hell-bent on selfimprovement yet vulnerable to her vices. She was all of us, and even a little worse, but no less deserving of love than the women she competed with at the box office.
Watching Bridget Jones in 2016 feels a bit like stepping back in time: It’s a comforting return to simpler times, but not without its uncomfortable anachronisms. In this instalment directed by Sharon Maguire (who also directed the original “Bridget Jones’s Diary”), hedonism as an antidote to loneliness is generously rewarded, motherhood is a prescribed milestone in the experience of womanhood, and men are overwhelmingly praised for the simple act of showing up. Bridget’s “everywoman” quality has tarnished: It’s harder to relate to a woman at the peak of her physical attractiveness, who has to choose between two successful men (including a billionaire!), both eager to start a family with her.
But despite all the problems of “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” the charm factor has never been higher. Zellweger reprises her role with grace and good humor, Firth is still awkwardly dashing, and Dempsey has gotten so good at playing “hapless other man” roles (as in “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Made of Honor”) you almost forget that he was ever McDreamy. Despite a rocky start, the film slides into blissful absurdity, including a hilarious recurring gag involving imprisoned Russian band “Poonami” (à la Pussy Riot) and a grimacing Mr. Darcy. Like a visit from a congenial but often PC-averse auntie, “Bridget Jones’s Baby” is not without its cringe-worthy moments, but it’s delightful all the same.