Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN - Terri WHITE

Direc­tor Sharon Maguire Cast Renée Zell­weger, Colin Firth, Pa­trick Dempsey, Jim Broad­bent, Gemma Jones, Emma Thomp­son, Sarah Sole­mani

PLOT Brid­get is back. She’s older (the film opens just shy of her 43rd birth­day), more suc­cess­ful, but not much wiser, as she be­comes preg­nant and is un­sure by whom: long-term love in­ter­est Mark Darcy or new Amer­i­can suitor Jack Quant. As the birth nears, who will turn out to be the daddy?

THE THIRD IN the Brid­get Jones fran­chise opens in a fa­mil­iar fash­ion: Brid­get (Zell­weger) is alone, an over­flow­ing glass of white wine in clenched fist as she sadly sways on her sofa to the strains of All By My­self. Un­til sud­denly she stops, ex­claims, ‘Fuck off!’, switches off Sad FM and flips on House Of Pain. And just like that Brid­get is back: still bum­bling and fum­bling but im­me­di­ately fun­nier and sharper than be­fore.

Pick­ing up 12 years af­ter the not-so suc­cess­ful sec­ond film The Edge of Rea­son, much has changed: Brid­get and Mark Darcy (Firth) have been apart for five years, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) is not around (we won’t spoil how or why, but it’s a high­light of the film) and Brid­get is sin­gle again and fo­cus­ing on friend­ships and her job as a top news pro­ducer. Just as you would ex­pect,

Brid­get Jones’s Baby is about Brid­get and her rather un­ex­pected baby, con­ceived af­ter ei­ther a one-off bunk-up with the Amer­i­can en­tre­pre­neur she meets at a fes­ti­val (Dempsey) or a one-off bunk-up with Mr Darcy at a chris­ten­ing.

Though the story oc­ca­sion­ally stretches cred­i­bil­ity, the warmth and wit so rem­i­nis­cent of the orig­i­nal Brid­get Jones’s Diary pro­pels you along, be­ing due in large part to the re­turn of one woman: direc­tor Sharon Maguire. You feel her filthy, funny thumb-prints pressed on al­most ev­ery scene, and it’s clear that the key chem­istry in Brid­get will never be between her and a male love in­ter­est but between Zell­weger and Maguire. Theirs is a par­tic­u­lar alchemy.

Which is some­thing to be thank­ful for as ul­ti­mately, while the dy­namic between Zell­weger and Firth is as solid as ever, her pair­ing with Dempsey never quite de­liv­ers, his char­ac­ter a one-note nice guy with a megawatt smile.

The real stand-out is Emma Thomp­son, who wrote and cre­ated her part as Brid­get’s doc­tor and shame­lessly steals ev­ery scene with a won­der­ful col­lec­tion of one-lin­ers (most mem­o­rably ad­vis­ing the ex­pec­tant fa­thers to leave the de­liv­ery room as her “ex-hus­band de­scribed it as watch­ing his favourite pub burn down”).

Sarah Sole­mani is also a welcome ad­di­tion as Brid­get’s thir­tysome­thing work friend Mi­randa, bring­ing a ra­zor-sharp sense of comic tim­ing and lend­ing a sur­pris­ing but welcome rel­e­vance to Brid­get in 2016.

Most pleas­ing though is the mes­sage of the new Brid­get Jones. While she’s long had a bumpy re­la­tion­ship with fem­i­nism, be­ing ac­cused of look­ing for life’s so­lu­tions in a re­la­tion­ship with a man, the cen­tral mes­sage de­liv­ered with a punch is that ac­tu­ally it’s ir­rel­e­vant who the daddy is. The re­la­tion­ship that mat­ters most is the one she’s de­vel­op­ing with her child and, in­deed, the one she has with her­self. You have to have a heart of coal not to laugh (a lot), cry (a bit) and leave want­ing to see it all over again.

VER­DICT more than a match for the orig­i­nal, brid­get’s third film has a solid story with holes you’ll for­give thanks to the much-missed on­screen magic cre­ated by a direc­tor and her lead­ing woman.

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