Here follows the review of Bridget Jones’s Baby I wrote for The Wrap straight after the premiere.
I haven’t changed my mind much – in short: it’s still funny, very neatly packaged, carefully wrapped in Working Title cotton wool, and very happy being fluffy and a bit silly rather than concentrate on any great wells of depression or mid-life angst. The comic business is perfectly precise. Oh, and Renee Zellweger is really very good (and, if in real life she’s altered a bit, on screen she still looks like a lot like Bridget Jones.)
Forget all that stuff about Renee Zellweger’s face – it’s still capable of pulling some choice comic expressions and re-creating a much loved, lived-in British character.
Yes, Bridget Jones is back and – I”m sure this isn’t a spoiler – this time she’s having a baby. The problem, the big comedy situation, is that she doesn’t know who the father is. It could be handsome internet dating billionaire Jack Qwant (played by dishy American Patrick Dempsey), whom Bridget meets at a Glastonbury-type music festival when this Prince Charming pulls her welly from a quagmire.
But it could also be Bridget’s perennial crush, Mr Mark Darcy, played as ever by Colin Firth, now a hugely successful barrister whose current big case is defending the freedoms of a persecuted Russian girl group called Poonani.
Bridget, now a 43-year-old, high-flying though ridiculously inept (and lonely) TV news producer, has slept with both of these men within days and, when she can’t squeeze into her skinny jeans, discovers she’s pregnant.
Some very British and, it must be said, very funny high jinks ensue, with key ingredients from the Working Title British Rom Com Handbook all whizzed up in a nutri-bullet of a script (Helen Fielding, with help from Dan Mazer and Emma Thomspon).
There is a fuck of a lot of swearing, as well as “bonking”, “shafting” and the zinger of Emma Thompson saying “fart”. Even the kids are at it, a six-year-old shouting across the mandatorily cute country church at the late-arriving Bridget: “Where the fuck were you?” All this posh fuck and buggery is some strange kind of Brit-com legacy, stretching all the way back, of course, to that opening of Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Speaking of Hugh Grant, he’s not in this one, although his Daniel Cleaver character does haunt the opening scenes, like a sexually rampant ghost.
But mostly, the whole gang’s back together, on screen as well as off. Working Title produce, while creator Helen Fielding writes and original director Sharon Maguire (the original Shazza of the books and newspaper column) returns. Bridget’s friends reassemble – Sally Phiiips as Shazza, James Callis as gay personal trainer Tom, Shirley Henderson as Jude… they’re sketchily drawn but they serve their purpose well, which is now mainly to have christenings and family events so singleton Bridget can come along as the nominated Godmother and self-appointed “spinster” and get herself in drunken trouble.
With all her old chums occupied by life’s responsibilities, Bridget has a new friend, Miranda the presenter at Hard News, nicely played by Sarah Solemani. Their relationship occasions the film’s most successful comic set-pieces, which mostly involve calamities live on air, such as an incident involving interviewing a Chinese chauffeur instead of a Korean dictator (actually based on an infamous real life BBC News mishap) and a brilliantly-judged and timed episode featuring Bridget’s personal Google browsing history during a power point demonstration.
I laughed plenty and heartily amid the procession of British pop hits (Ed Sheeran, Years and Years, Ellie Goulding), the litany of London locations new and old (Borough Market, Greenwich Park, King’s Cross’s Granary Square fountains, the former Olympic Swimming Pool and even Highbury Fields, where Hugh Grant kissed Andie MacDowell all those years ago), as well as the necessary country house hotel, quaint churches and Christmas snows.
Of course, there’s the traditional climactic cross-town dash, this time to get to the hospital in time and, hilariously, done partly on foot. It’s been some while since Working Title had this kind of mojo back together and one is reminded how polished and potent a comic recipe it can be.
Maguire as director maintains a lively comic pace and although some of the gags and set-ups have a distinctly sit-com feel, and the famous old diary has been unsatisfactorily replaced with a vague blog-type tablet device, Zellweger continues to give a bravura comic performance as Bridget.
Even if there’s not much room for any pathos here, this still feels like a real person who cries and bruises and loves. She’s a woman gamely surviving the pitfalls and pratfalls of her own desperation and insecurities and Zellweger creates a hugely sympathetic character, whose English accent rarely falters and whom every member of the audience will wish well, and cheer all the way up the aisle.