Bridget Jones’s Baby – 2016

Director Sharon Maguire
Screenplay Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, Emma Thompson
Starring  Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Emma Thompson

What the third film in the Bridget Jones saga has to accomplish is too much, and nothing at all. To shake the foundations of a cast of characters that was perfect in the first film, then just kind of there for the second film would be a betrayal to all that is holy in the world of romantic comedies.

What does one do when Hugh Grant doesn’t like the script for the third film? Replace him with a generic nice guy like poor Patrick Dempsey. Give him a moment or two to color outside of the lines, make him upstanding the rest of the time. Voila. The script writes itself…poorly.

The third film opens with a twist on the typical “alone and single” for her birthday theme. We get a rewind, find she’s not really miserable. She’s kind of thin and she’s got some new friends to go along with the old. The new friends are single and her age. The old are coupled up and are moving toward parenthood.

Bridget’s (Zellweger) successful, having a relatively good time drinking, carousing and hooking up with a random rich guy (Dempsey) at a weekend concert festival. She heads out before he can bring her breakfast and moves on with life…for a week. Then a tipsy hook up with Darcy (Firth) leads to…her leaving him a note in the morning.

Three months later. She’s pregnant. She finds a reason to tell each guy and not tell them about the other. Why is this? Wacky hijinks is why. And when they find out, more hijinks.

In many ways, the series has harkened back to romantic comedies of the ’50’s. If you add a bunch of foul language and change the morals to be in line with the liberal media of today, you’d have a perfect match. Sadly, this means it’s not that good either. The damn thing about it is the first film was perfect with most of the same players. Two important omissions, Richard Curtis and Andrew Davies, lead one to wonder how little import they had on story this time around.

It’s sad, because Bridget and Darcy deserve much better than to be flitting around in their 40’s trying to find themselves in each other’s arms. It could have been done better than the two films that followed that first classic. Audiences weren’t complaining much though. The film still made a metric ton of money. That each film has made less than the last should say something, but it didn’t say enough.

That there are some significantly funny moments in the film make it worth the watch, especially one has maintained an arms length fondness for the characters without being desirous of something more substantial. It is similarly refreshing to see a film where a child is talked to and about while still in the womb. You know, like a person should be considered.

Those moments aside, there are plenty more awkward moments that are supposed to play better than they do. Dempsey, poor Dempsey. He deserves better than to be a fill in. Thank goodness they are making Enchanted 2.

Ultimately this is the story about Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy. In that respect, it feels more stilted than ever. Someone took happily ever after and broke it up only so they could make a couple of sequels. If it were only possible to make a happily ever after sequel that didn’t involve the split ups.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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