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Dustin Putman

Bridget Jones's Baby  (2016)
2 Stars
Directed by Sharon Maguire.
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Sarah Solemani, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Sally Phillips, James Callis, Shirley Henderson, Emma Thompson, Kate O'Flynn, Ben Willbond, Celia Imrie, Agni Scott, Enzo Cilenti, Ed Sheeran.
2016 – 125 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for language, sexual references and some nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, September 12, 2016.
It has been six years since Renée Zellweger last headlined a major studio feature (2010's "Case 39") and an amazing twelve years since her previous foray as Bridget Jones in 2004's "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," and it is a real pleasure to see her return in front of the camera. Any doubts that Zellweger wouldn't be able to slip back into the shoes, accent and vocal inflections of the plucky, heart-on-her-sleeve British singleton need not have worried. Not only does she not miss a beat, but the opportunity to revisit this character over a decade later—and fifteen years since 2001's utterly charming "Bridget Jones's Diary"—is one the actor does not take lightly. Because Zellweger is a delight in the role, one almost feels guilty having to criticize the otherwise middle-of-the-road, decidedly cornball "Bridget Jones's Baby."

Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) may have just turned 43, but a lot is going right in her life. While her romance with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) is no more—he is currently married to Camilla (Agni Scott)—she is now a top TV news producer, has a close, supportive new friend in anchor Miranda (Sarah Solemani), and has finally reached her goal weight. Bridget has never been one to put much stock in the possibilities of motherhood, but she views the news of her pregnancy with both surprise and excitement. Her only predicament: she has no idea who the father is, by chance having slept with two men in a one-week period. Is her baby daddy nice-guy billionaire matchmaker Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), whom she paired up with during a music festival, or could it be Mark himself, who announced his divorce to Camilla and his lasting love for Bridget one romantic night following their godchild's christening?

As "Bridget Jones's Baby" extends the inevitable and grapples with this predicament—the kind that could be worked out in a matter of moments if Bridget was up front with her two potential beaus—original director Sharon Maguire (returning to the series after sitting out the first sequel) tries to recapture that same old magic of the earlier picture. She succeeds in spurts, in no small part due to Renée Zellweger's irresistible contributions and the added wisdom that comes with telling a story about a woman in her 40s rather than one in her 30s. The rest of the time, unfortunately, the film loses itself in familiarity and a dumbed-down screwball plot that can never truly commit to its zany premise. Because both of Bridget's suitors are genuinely nice and understanding guys, the resulting low stakes lead to a meandering pace and sluggish narrative. Physical pratfalls, such as one where she collapses face-first into mud while walking in high heels, are fairly cheap shots, while would-be comedic scenes involving dancing to "Gangnam Style" and Mark and Jack getting confused for a same-sex couple at a neonatal class feel awfully square in 2016.

"Bridget Jones's Baby" was written by "Bridget Jones's Diary" author Helen Fielding, Emma Thompson (2010's "Nanny McPhee Returns") and Dan Mazer (2013's "I Give It a Year"), and these scribes dare not miss an opportunity to continually remind viewers their lead protagonist is of a certain age—or, as OB-GYN Dr. Rawlings (Emma Thompson) describes her in fertility terms, "geriatric." Is this particular focus a comment on modern ageism, or does the film fall into the trap of obsessing over a number? The answer is up for debate, much like the necessity of this movie's existence. Renée Zellweger keeps the proceedings afloat, even when one's eyes are threatening to roll. She is a perfect match for the unapologetically human Bridget, finding the acerbic humor, awkwardness, warmth and poignancy that makes her who she is.

As a chance to revisit a beloved literary-turned-cinematic character, "Bridget Jones's Baby" is pleasant, harmless and predictable, occasionally ringing true in its portrayal of a flawed yet good-souled character who has come a long way since audiences first met her, but still has a lot to learn. Alas, for every victory, there is a stumble. Weak plot devices are designed for the sole purpose of adding conflict (as when Bridget gets locked out from an indoor ATM machine where she has left her purse), then are promptly forgotten. Other developments, including her professional troubles dealing with network boss Alice Peabody (Kate O'Flynn), lack satisfying resolution. The absence of Hugh Grant is additionally felt; starring as the alluring, caddish Daniel Cleaver in the first two films, he brought a special dynamic to Bridget's love woes that is missing this time. While returning love interest Colin Firth (2015's "Kingsman: The Secret Service") and newcomer-to-the-series Patrick Dempsey (2011's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon") are likable, they also prove exceedingly vanilla. Ultimately, the same thing could be said for "Bridget Jones's Baby."
© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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