Bridget Jones's Baby is a perfectly enjoyable addition to the Bridget Jones franchise, if not a particularly meaningful one.
Bridget Jones's Baby catches up with the eponymous Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger), now in her early 40s and single once more - having broken off her engagement with longtime love Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) some years earlier. While most of Bridget's closest friends have now either started their own families or are about to, Miss Jones decides to take advantage of the fact that her career is going well and that she's happier than ever with herself, embracing the benefits that come with her single status. This leads to Bridget doing things like attending a music concert and having a one-night stand with an American man named Jack (Patrick Dempsey) in the process.
Shortly after that, Bridget also has a one-night stand with Mark and winds up pregnant, leaving her uncertain as to who the father is. Bridget is thus left not only dealing with the looming prospect of being a mother, but having to figure out how to deal with this "mystery father" situation - a situation that becomes all the more complicated once Bridget comes to realize that she could see herself raising her child with either Jack or Mark.
Bridget Jones's Baby is the third installment in the Bridget Jones movie series and the first since Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was released in 2004. The track record for comedy franchises that go ten or more years between new installments is not good - and seeing as the critical reception for The Edge of Reason was decidedly more negative than that for 2001's Bridget Jones's Diary, there's fair reason to be skeptical of a third Bridget Jones movie, right off the bat. Fortunately, thanks to the return of key players on both sides of the camera (and some welcome new additions), the latest Bridget Jones film makes for a pleasantly fluffy reunion with Miss Jones and her friends/family.
The script for Bridget Jones's Baby is credited to costar Emma Thompson (who, in case you had forgotten, is also an Oscar-winning screenwriter) and Dan Mazer, the latter being Sacha Baron Cohen's co-writer on Da Ali G Show and its spinoff movies, Borat and Brüno. Bridget Jones's Baby, in turn, unfolds as a somewhat uneven marriage of their storytelling approaches. It seems fair to presume that Thompson is responsible for more of the subtler and smarter plot elements here - those dealing with the realities of how relationships work and what being a parent is like, as well as the pressures (personal and professional) that women with careers deal with as they age. Those same elements align with the commentary from Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding's own third novel in the series, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. (For those who are familiar with Mad About the Boy: Bridget Jones's Baby puts a funny twist on the idea of killing off a major character, as that novel infamously does.)
The over the top romantic comedy scenarios and raunchier humor in Bridget Jones's Baby (not to mention, jokes targeting low-hanging fruit like social media, hipsters and other references to modern culture) are also the weaker elements - and based on his previous work, may be more Mazer's doing than anything else. Fortunately, the third Bridget Jones movie benefits from having Bridget Jones's Diary director Sharon Maguire back at the helm in this respect. From a directorial perspective, Maguire succeeds in serving up enough of the cleverly awkward comedy and relatable drama (in the vein of the first Bridget Jones film) to counteract the elements of the film that feel manufactured to deliver what is expected from the Bridget Jones "brand". Maguire and her collaborators, including her director of photography Andrew Dunn (Precious, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), also succeed in putting together a final movie result that is perfectly acceptable - no more, but no less - in term of its technical craftsmanship.
Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth are slide comfortably back in their familiar roles as Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy here - though Bridget Jones's Baby requires them to do little more than play older and slightly wiser versions of Bridget and Darcy from the films before. McDreamy himself, Grey's Anatomy alum Patrick Dempsey completes the trifecta here as Jack: a fellow with a decidedly "modern" outlook, who is (to a fault) clearly designed to serve as both the foil to the emotionally pent-up Darcy and function as the main source of conflict in the story. Fortunately, Dempsey delivers a charismatic and relatable performance on the same level as Zellweger and Firth - making it easier to cheer him on too, even if the film never truly manages to instill any doubt in your mind about how it will ultimately resolve the trio's dilemma.
The supporting cast of Bridget Jones's Baby includes many a welcome returning player from the previous two Bridget Jones films, including Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones as Bridget's parents (Colin and Pamela), in addition to Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson and James Callis as Bridget's BFFs (Sharon/"Shazza", Jude and Tom respectively). Most of the subplots involving them is fairly insubstantial, but makes for a nice reunion with the eccentric people in Bridget's life all the same. Meanwhile, the two biggest scene-stealers in the supporting cast are easily Sarah Solemani (Bad Education) as Bridget's co-worker and wild spirit, Miranda, as well as Thompson herself as Bridget's world-weary and dry-witted gynecologist, Dr. Rawlings.
Bridget Jones's Baby is a perfectly enjoyable addition to the Bridget Jones franchise, if not a particularly meaningful one. The belated sequel recaptures much of what worked best in the previous two Bridget Jones movies and offers its fair share of touching and funny moments alike (along with some fun callbacks for longtime fans) - but when all is said and done, the plot is mostly a contrived excuse to revisit the Bridget Jones character in 2016 and the movie itself plays things too safe to work as both a funny and insightful rom-com (a la Bridget Jones's Diary). Nevertheless, in the world of late-arriving film sequels, this is definitely one of the better ones. Plus, those who related to Bridget when they were younger may be surprised to find the character has grown just enough for them to still be able to connect with her now, too.
Bridget Jones's Baby is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 123 minutes long and is Rated R for language, sex references and some nudity.
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