Bridget Jones’ Baby Delivers, But Just Barely.

Bridget Jones’s Baby.
Director: Sharon Maguire.
Writers: Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, Emma Thompson.
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Emma Thompson.
Playing At: Wide.

When Bridget Jones’s Diary came out 15 years ago, it was actually a refreshing alternative to the glut of American romantic comedies featuring size-zero heroines who could just find love if they weren’t so married to their careers. Helen Fielding’s irreverent send-up of Pride and Prejudice won over audiences across the world and scored Renée Zellweger her first Oscar nomination. It was too bad the 2004 follow-up The Edge of Reason was essentially one feature-length pratfall.

The belated sequel Bridget Jones’s Baby, however, splits the difference between the goofiness of The Edge of Reason – which still had its endearing moments – and the insightful character-based comedy of the original.

In the years since Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) proposed to Bridget, they’ve split up and she’s still living in her cramped apartment, working for a low-rated news show. She only occasionally sees her friends since they’re all parents now. The focus is no longer on her weight struggles, but her unfulfilled life. Crucially, the movie doesn’t suggest that having a child is the only way to find it.

Setting out for an ultimate girls’ weekend with her colleague Miranda (Sarah Solemani, who often steals the show), she hooks up with Jack (Patrick Dempsey, charming as ever). A week later, she rekindles her romance with Mark. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she’s not sure who the father is.

After that, the movie becomes too reliant on gags and becomes way too predictable. (There’s even a montage set to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” which I thought was outlawed in the ’90s.)

Now, some of the bits — like an interview in which Miranda inadvertently praises a genocidal dictator — are genuinely hilarious. But they have to compete with tired jokes about how Millennials are always on their phones. At least nobody gets shit on by an infant.

The movie is desperately in need of Hugh Grant’s caddish Daniel Cleaver. Jack is no substitute in this love triangle. He’s no unabashed hedonist, just a vanilla American alternative to Mark. (He’s also a billionaire for no discernible reason. This isn’t really a conflict, since Mark is one of the most recognizable attorneys in the UK.)

But Bridget Jones’s Baby does have Emma Thompson, and Emma Thompson can make up for a lot. As Bridget’s doctor, she’s whip-smart and barely tolerates anyone who comes her way. She’s brilliant.

I realize that it sounds like I’m being hard on this movie, and it’s somewhat deserved, considering how transcendent that first film was. But like its flawed protagonist, I take Bridget just as she is.

Grade: B-.

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