From the opening moments of this surprisingly strong “three-quel”, it’s seemingly business as usual: In her small Borough Market-adjacent flat on a cold, dark evening Bridget sits alone in her pyjamas and baggy jumper celebrating her latest birthday while wondering how she has wound up back in familiar territory given that she had found true love with Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) when we last had the pleasure of her company. But despite more heartbreak, the new Jones is feistier and more determined to chose her own paths and determine her own future. As Celine Dion’s vocals are drowned out in place of House of Pain’s Jump Around, we are now in the presence of a fresher tale.
A lot has changed in the twelve years since Edge of Reason, for Bridget her work life has blossomed and she is now a fully-fledged and respected news producer and is embracing life again thanks in no small part to her hip news anchor Miranda (a wonderful turn from Sarah Solemani) who introduces her to the likes of Glastonbury, where she first lays eyes on Dempsey’s suave dating-app king Jack, Instagram and countless other new fads of 2016.
But old habits die-hard for Bridget and as the ad campaign has alluded to, “men are like buses” – you wait ages for one then two come along at once. Re-enter Mark Darcy (Firth) at a family christening that mixes old flames and Gangnam Style to aphrodisiac levels that draws the attentions of Mr. Stork, who was already “on-call” days before. Or was he…
A plethora of returning comedies have been something of a fad in recent years, with the likes of Dumb and Dumber and Zoolander returning after many years away. What separates those huge disappointments with Bridget Jones’s Baby is the injection of freshness, whether a new idea or a fresh perspective on the material while still maintaining the themes and characters, and not taking its audiences for granted that they want exactly the same thing over and over again. There’s a renewed comic verve here that lifts it above all those others for which we can certainly thank the writing and acting efforts of Emma Thompson, whose energy punctuates throughout the film.
And then of course there’s Zellweger – they say absence makes the heart grow fonder and boy is that true of Renee Zellweger, who’s self-imposed hiatus is finally over and we have one of Hollywood’s underrated comic talents back in out midst once more, excelling once again as Bridget. Enjoying the sterner, more forceful nature of the wiser Bridget, Zellweger’s superb timing works wonderfully with Thompson’s witticisms while still maintaining a suitable dose of heartache melancholia.
But just like the impending delivery, the film’s final trimester is messy and tiresome with its two-hour running time stretched thin as we tunnel towards baby birthing day. There are a few playful moments but its closing moments are so overly schmaltzy and without much satisfaction that it undoes some of the work done prior.
There is much to enjoy from Bridget Jones’ Baby, not least from the superb return of Zellweger who deserves all the praise for returning to the well after her time away. Thompson’s sharp writing and playfulness adds much but the final third leaves something to be desired and threatens to derail the early good work. Still, a welcome return for our “Bridge”.