Bridget Jones’s Baby is Agreeably Lame

Fans of Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and, if such people exist, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), who go to Bridget Jones’s Baby simply hoping to spend a couple of hours in the company of the titular heroine (Renee Zellweger), not expecting any great emotional beats or memorable jokes, will not be disappointed. The belated third entry in the Bridget Jones’s series brings back the original film’s capacity to moderately amuse sometimes. It is a modestly budgeted movie, that the studio clearly hopes will turn a profit by appealing to any lingering affection fans have for the character and her literary counterpart. Fine.

Picking up, naturally, twelve years after the events of The Edge of Reason, Bridget is a bit more on her game than we have previously seen her, having reached her ideal weight and a position as a “top producer” for a television news program. However her on/off relationship with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth, ever the embodiment of British stuffiness), has failed to pan out, with him married to another woman and her tragically single. Things begin to take a turn when, in quick succession, Bridget enjoys a one-night stand with hunky billionaire dating-site creator Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey, loud-talking all his lines), and then a night of passion with dear old Mark. One of these trysts results in conception and it is left to Bridget to find out who the father is. The movie proceeds from here without surprise.

For a comedy, Bridget Jones’s Baby seems largely unconcerned with delivering any laughs. Rather, it serves as a kind of security blanket for adult audiences, providing safety in the familiar. When Bridget attends a muddy music festival wearing white does she fall face first into a puddle? You bet she will. Will Sister Sledge’s “We are Family” play during a montage of the three leads preparing for childbirth? Oh yes. In addition to Zellweger and Firth, Sally Phillips, James Callis, Celia Imrie, Jim Broadbent, and Shirley Henderson all pop up to reprise their roles from the earlier films, the only character notably missing is Hugh Grant’s cad Daniel Cleaver, whose absence is explained in one of the movie’s funnier jokes. The best of the, mostly tired, material goes to Emma Thompson, who co-wrote with Dan Mazer and Bridget Jones’s Diary author Helen Fielding, and who plays Bridget’s dry OB/GYN.

As one might expect from a film about a woman struggling with having just turned forty-three, Bridget Jones’s Baby does a fair bit of grousing about the very young. A major subplot of the film is the takeover of the television station where Bridget works by a team of hipsters who wear dumb clothes and (hilariously?) often have beards. We are informed that this takeover is meant to signify the dumbing-down of the news to a focus on silly animal footage and tabloid gossip, but the movie fails to convince that the show Bridget has been producing is anything but an asinine morning chat show. In the film’s strangest subplot, Mark serves as legal representation for an all-female Eastern European punk-rock crew that is a thinly veiled reference to Pussy Riot, and whom the film portrays as talentless provocateurs. The movie does itself take a couple of swings and misses at appealing to youth culture by making references just a couple years out of date (Bridget makes a joke that starts by saying “hashtag,” some children dance to Psy’s “Gangnam Style”).

It’s not a cool movie, even, or especially, when it tries to be cool, but it does not need to be cool. It just needs to be a reasonable facsimile of Bridget Jones’s Diary, and it is. It is not very funny, but it does not offend. It is predictable in a way that is not entirely displeasing. The performances are not inspired but they are mostly not lazy. There is enough swearing and nudity in it to seem a bit naughty to people who are not naughty. It is as good as it needs to be, which is to say that it is better than Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Fine.

Bridget Jones’s Baby (Universal)
Director: Sharon Maguire
Writer: Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, Emma Thompson
Cinematographer: Andrew Dunn
Editor: Melanie Ann Oliver
Strarring: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Emma Thompson
English/123 min./R

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