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[Review] – ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 16 September 2016 [USA]
 
Director: Sharon Maguire
 
Writer: Helen Fielding - Dan Mazer - Emma Thompson [Screenplay] - Helen Fielding [Based On Characters By]
 
Cast: Renée Zellweger - Gemma Jones - Jim Broadbent - Colin Firth
 


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Posted September 25, 2016 by

 
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Review:

Bridget Jones was never meant to be taken very seriously. Helen Fielding’s original creation, which has now spun off its third feature film, had the cache of dealing with single urban women in a manner that was somewhat wittier than many of its contemporaries, but Bridget was always somewhat of a fairy tale in which the stakes were never all that high and in which a great job or a great man was always waiting to solve life’s inconveniences.

And so, toward the end of Bridget’s newest adventure, Bridget Jones’s Baby, when our pregnant and rain-soaked and – horrors! – 43 year old heroine finds herself locked out of her apartment, she bemoans the lack of knights-in-shining-armor. Now, depending on your tolerance for such moments, you either sigh in contentment or groan in contempt at the inevitable appearance of a Mr. Darcy on the horizon.

The fact that the Bridget movies are well-mounted and acted by a talented array of English comics (plus one prominent Yank with an accent) does not change the absurdity of the movies. So in the latest, news producer Bridget and her gal pal fierce anchorwoman Miranda, can commit journalistic sin after sin after sin, any one of which would be grounds for sacking, and still maintain the moral high ground over their trendy millennial boss.

And of course, when Bridget has to deal with the issue of single motherhood, she does so with a noble freedom of speech barrister and an internet gazillionaire fighting for her affections. She also has great friends, rock solid parents, and Emma Thompson as her doctor. Pure fairy tale.

Perhaps that is why it simply is never possible to really invest very much in Bridget and her story. Her movies have always flirted with genuine topically-relevant issues, but have never lobbed more than a couple of soft pitches in Bridget’s paths. The threat is always to her dignity, never to her actual survival.

Fortunately, Renee Zellweger, who has now been inhabiting Bridget for fifteen years, is quite good at milking humor out of threats to her dignity. And she is ably supported by old friends (Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy) and new ones (Sarah Solemani as the terribly inappropriate Miranda). And Thompson is so good as the wise-cracking obstetrician that I think her bedside manner needs to become part of the curriculum in medical colleges. There is some powerful acting in support of a rather flimsy fairy tale.

It is Miranda who connives to get Bridget laid in celebration of the big 43 by taking her to a muddy yuppie festival (think Woodstock with glamping) where she meets the hunky and friendly rick guy Jack (Patrick Dempsey). They will spend one night together, and then the following week Bridget will hook up with former flame Mark Darcy. One of them is the daddy to her baby, but she doesn’t know which. That is the premise. The fact that modern medical science could solve this dilemma in half a minute is quickly and rather awkwardly shunted aside.

Apart from plot iffiness, the biggest problem with the new movie is that Dempsey as Jack, is not the equal of Hugh Grant as the suave playboy Daniel Cleaver, who battled it out with Darcy in the first two movies. Daniel, who is supposedly killed off early in the new story, was the closest thing the franchise has ever come to danger. Grant was always good at playing the sly bastard. Jack’s greatest sin is that he is too friendly.

Without any actual stakes, the movie rises and falls on its set pieces and they are hit and miss. Director Sharon Maguire, who also directed the first movie in the series, does a nice job with the inter-office shenanigans at the TV station and gets many of the small, person-to-person scenes right. But the big moments, like the festival at the beginning, tend to be a bit of a mess. And the big reveal at the climactic nuptials is a visual cliché that you can see coming from the back row of the multiplex.

All in all, there just isn’t much to get excited about here, and the early box office returns suggest Bridget may have run her course. Which makes the sequel teasers at the very end, suggesting the rascally Daniel might re-enter the picture (should there be another picture), feel rather like a day late and a couple pounds short.

Perhaps it is better that we leave Bridget and Mark to raise their son in peace, without the glare of Bridget’s humiliating bad luck and overall spunkiness. Bridget Jones’s Baby is not nearly as embarrassing as the Ab Fab reboot earlier this year, but then again, Bridget never soared as high as Patty and Edwina. She simply didn’t have as far to fall.

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Jonathan Eig
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