On the face of it, “Bridget Jones’s Baby” seems like an unlikely sort of endeavor. It is another of this year’s delayed sequels (following things like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” and “Finding Dory,” just to name a couple). We first saw Bridget on the big screen in 2001 in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and got a sequel, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” in 2004.
The first two films are based on novels of the same names by Helen Fielding (who worked on the screenplay for all three films) and while a she did write a third Bridget Jones novel that hit shelves in 2014, “Bridget Jones’s Baby” is unrelated to it. Not having read that third novel, I dare not suggest whether that is wise or unwise, I merely note that it is.
Whatever one may think of that choice, “Bridget Jones’s Baby” exists and it sees Renée Zellweger return to role of Bridget. Many of Bridget’s friends from the first two films get the opportunity to pop up, as do Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones as Bridget’s parents, and Colin Firth is also back as Mark Darcy. Hugh Grant, who played Daniel Cleaver in the first two films, sits this one out although the character is brought up on occasion (and Grant is thanked in the credits). Appearing as an alternate potential love interest in Cleaver’s stead is Jack Quant, played by Patrick Dempsey.
This is where that whole tough sell thing comes into it – the audience has already spent two films watching Bridget get together with Mark. In fact, it works less well in the second film because we saw it happen in the first movie. So, here we start the third film and Bridget is not with Mark. She is back to being, as she puts it, a singleton (and seemingly has been for years). Her career working as a producer in TV news is a success, but her love life remains rather more lacking than she might like.
Enter Jack Qwant. Reenter Mark Darcy. As the title indicates, Bridget gets pregnant and she doesn’t know which man is the father. Shenanigans ensue and it works wonderfully – it is laugh out loud humor that occasionally goes lewd but more often just manages to be hysterical through its awkwardness.
It is Zellweger herself who does all the hard-lifting in the film. She is the reason why the entire thing works. You can insert a pregnancy/baby metaphor here if you like, something about Zellweger pushing through all the hard labor of making the thing come to life, of birthing a beautiful movie. You would be right to do so, but you would be wrong in not pointing out that Bridget’s OB helps a significant amount in bringing it all to life.
Emma Thompson serves in the supporting role of Dr. Rawlings and (along with Fielding and Dan Mazer), wrote the screenplay. Rawlings’ wit is a wry one and Thompson steals every scene she’s in with a look or a quick aside or some sort of astounding truth. Also in a fantastic supporting role is Sarah Solemani as Miranda, an on-air news anchor with whom Bridget works (and who is responsible for Bridget and Jack meeting). The biggest disappointment with Miranda’s character is that after playing an important part early on in the film, she disappears for too long in the middle.
Another wise choice made in the screenplay and carried to fruition by director Sharon Maguire (who directed the first film in the series) is to not hide where things are going. It is clear quite to the audience early on with whom Bridget will wind up. Bridget is less certain, but that’s only because she doesn’t understand the tropes of filmmaking and storytelling.
One other great move is to have Jack be the antithesis of Daniel Cleaver. This movie doesn’t center Bridget’s life love on the bad boy vs. the good one, but rather the good one vs. the other good one. Jack is a Prince Charming (an angle the film plays up) and were Bridget to choose him, there is no doubt he would do everything he could to make their relationship work. Too often he is backlight with a sort of halo effect which could be toned down, but it’s there because he’s a god send.
There are some issues with “Bridget Jones’s Baby.” Most notably, Bridget’s work strife feels like too much of a slipping backwards at some moments, but these complaints are few and far between.
“Bridget Jones’s Baby” is a surprising treat. It is a movie that is funny and serious, garnering audience applause and delivering loads of enjoyment. It is a beautiful revisiting of a character and proves itself a more than worthy entry into the franchise rather than coming off as a crass, late to the party, sequel.
photo credit: Universal Studios