Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016) – Movie Review
Bridget Jones’s Baby
Directed by: Sharon Maguire
Written by: Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer & Emma Thompson
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey & Sarah Solemani
Music: Craig Armstrong
Release Date: September 16th 2016
As a character, Bridget Jones has become a British staple over the past 20 years. First appearing in the 1996 book “Bridget Jones’s Diary” by Helen Fielding, the character instantly became a symbol for “average” women who were trying to find their place in the world and also try and find love. It wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when” she’d make her way to the screen and sure enough in 2001 ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary‘ was released becoming the highest grossing romantic comedy in U.K. history and even netting Renée Zellweger an Oscar nomination. A sequel was made three years later based off Fielding’s second book ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason‘ and while it wasn’t nearly as well received, was still a huge hit.
But that was it for the film franchise, despite the book series continuing with “Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy” in 2013 and “Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries” in 2016. There doesn’t seem to be much of a documented reason behind the delay in getting a new film out but the film’s recent production was littered with delays and even franchise-regular Hugh Grant left because he was dissatisfied with the script. But it’s been 12 years since the last movie. Is Bridget Jones still the same character she was back then? And if she isn’t, can she still capture U.K. movie-goers after all this time the same way she did back in 2001?
It’s Bridget Jones’s (Zellweger) 43rd birthday and she is alone once again with her ex-partner Mark Darcy (Firth) having married another woman. With the help of her friends at work, as she now works as a television producer, she decides to try and have fun on her own but winds up having a one-night stand with romance-guru Jack Qwant (Dempsey) at a concert closely followed by a fling with Darcy again. She then discovers that she’s pregnant with no idea who the father is; Jack or Mark? Not only does Bridget Jones have to go about her difficult life whilst also preparing for a baby, but she also has to come to terms with the idea that who the baby’s father is and who she wants it to be could be very different.
A lot has to happen in the first act of ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ in order to justify its existence. While ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason‘ is almost unanimously considered to be a weak sequel to the first movie, it did tie up many loose ends and was the solid conclusion with Bridget and Mark getting together and getting their happy ever after. But from the opening frame of ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ that ending has been un-done with the two splitting up off-screen and Bridget is now back to square-one. The movie does give us a short flashback/montage sequence about what happened to Bridget and Mark’s relationship, but it feels too-late into the movie and holding that information back from viewers just so we can have an identical opening to the previous films feels like fan-service coming before telling this story adequately.
But, once the movie gets going and we get our central conflict of Bridget being the object of affection for two men whilst also having problems at work as well as dealing with her own personal insecurities (stop me if you’ve heard this plot before) then fans of the series will feel right at home. While many fans have lamented the loss of Hugh Grant to this franchise, his character’s schtick was getting pretty old and the way they address his departure is one of the film’s funniest sequences.
In fact, whilst the amount of laughs in ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ may be fewer than in the first film, the laughs that DO happen are easily bigger. The physical comedy sequences revolving around the awkwardness of pregnancy, some of the celebrity cameos as well as absolutely everything that’s done by Emma Thompson as Bridget’s obstetrician (with Thompson also co-writing the film’s screenplay) are easily some of the standout sequences of the trilogy. Even if there’s nothing that quite tops Bridget running through the snow in the first movie, ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ does deliver the laughs that it promises.
But make no mistake, the film does show its age in numerous ways with many jokes feeling dated despite a sub-plot of the film revolving around younger people who are more in-tune with modern culture threatening to take over Bridget’s job. Jokes revolving around messed-up Powerpoint presentations, Gangnam Style, cats that look like Hitler and others feel like a relic from years ago and ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ feels so antiquated when presenting them. Even in more subtle ways, ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ feels like it’s trying too hard to recapture the late 90s or early 2000s aspect of Bridget’s life, such as having her in the exact same one-person apartment despite how phenomenally expensive it would be due to London’s recent accommodation-crisis over the past decade.
I know that Bridget Jones is a TV producer, but she still doesn’t seem to rank that highly amongst her peers and she’d probably have to own the entire TV channel she’s working on to afford a one-person flat of that size. Though that’s possibly a nit-pick.
As for the characters, as easy as it is for Renée Zellweger to step right back into her Bridget-mode, it feels like after 12 years her character should have come a lot further. Especially since she’s a TV producer and has become more independent after losing Mark. Zellweger seems to step too naturally into this character as opposed to actually maturing her, but maybe that’s the point and maybe that’s what makes her so endearing to many people. If anything, it feels like Colin Firth is the MVP of the film because the way he has aged over the past 12 years has given him a face that is perfect for deadpan comedy.
Patrick Dempsey is fine as Jack Qwant and while I’m glad they went in a completely different direction than Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver character for this third instalment, he still feels like an archetypal “nice guy” so much to the extent that when he does start to give mean-spirited jabs to Mark later on in the film, it felt like they came out of nowhere. But, to the film’s credit, the sequences themselves involving Mark and Jack having to force smiles as they help Bridget through the pregnancy is incredibly watchable and never gets old. My only complaint with these two is that they DON’T re-create the petty slap-fights that Mark and Daniel had in the previous film, but that’s mainly because I want to see what a post-‘Kingsman: The Secret Service‘ Colin Firth does in sequences like that.
But the main dilemma hanging over the movie’s head is “Who will Bridget choose?”. Does she choose the man who has been in all previous films who is clearly her true love, or does she choose this newcomer who she doesn’t really have the attachment to? It’s a pretty flimsy hook for the film and while I won’t give away what happens at the end, it feels like it’s a question that didn’t need a 123 minute run-time. The main question of whether or not that person is the same as the baby’s father is a more interesting and mature discussion, but it feels like the movie would rather tie a nice bow on the franchise and end it rather than explore it. And that’s…fine? It just means the movie isn’t really aiming very high and it means that it doesn’t have so far to fall when it mis-steps. Like when sub-plots involving Bridget’s parents are started and then dropped and abandoned without much explanation. It’s nice to see Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones in this franchise again, but they really don’t have enough to do here.
But ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ is still a solid British Production and with the movie taking place almost over the course of a whole year with Bridget going through a pregnancy means we can see London change throughout the seasons. It allows the movie to approach familiar scenes and locations differently as it progresses, at least visually. The director of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary‘ Sharon Maquire returns to direct ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ (and along with Beeban Kidron directing ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason‘ makes this the second ever movie trilogy directed by women, after ‘The Matrix‘) and keeping things more grounded in London as opposed to travelling to more exotic places like the first sequel did, actually seems to help. As expected, Craig Armstrong does good work with the music but the movie’s soundtrack which is full of (terrible) contemporary music doesn’t really help matters much.
‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ is a safe sequel which, while not feeling like a cash-grab or a lifeless endeavour, does feel like it’s not aiming particularly high. It sidesteps characters and themes but it’s in service of making a fluffy and rather disposable ending to Bridget Jones’s story. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with that and diehard fans of the series will find their needs absolutely catered for here. It’s hard to know exactly what’s expected of me with a write-up like this, because while the film is fun, well-acted and entertaining at points, it does feel rather lightweight and antiquated. But it’s perfectly serviceable and it ends the franchise on a higher note than ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason‘, even if it takes several questionable steps to get there.
I give ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby‘ 3 stars out of 5.
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Posted: 11th Dec 16