Bridget Jones’s Baby is the third outing for our heroine as played by Renée Zellweger, whose cosmetic work to face has received more media attention than the film itself, but we will try to counteract that here. So, on this occasion, Bridget finds herself pregnant but does not know if the father is our old friend, uptight lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth, who is not as young and dewy as he was at, say, 32, perhaps because he’s now 56), or the American dating magnate Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey, 50, who may have let himself go a bit, but then he has had three children, so fair’s fair). And now a note to self: stop going on about how Hollywood women are damned if they do and damned if they won’t (get older, that is) and just tell us if this is worth seeing. Answer to self: OK! I’ll try!
It’s directed by Sharon Maguire, who helmed the first Bridget Jones film, which was excellent, but not the second, which veered off tediously into that silly Thai jail business. It’s written by Helen Fielding, who invented Bridget as a column in the Independent (RIP), and also Dan Mazer (Sacha Baron Cohen’s collaborator, looking not too bad for 44), and Emma Thompson who, being a cheeky blighter, has written in a part for herself which may even be the best part.
The opening nicely takes us back to film one, square one, with poor old Bridge sitting in her PJs decorated with those little penguins — where does she get such long-lasting PJs from? Not Primark, I would venture — in that top-floor flat although instead of lip-syncing ‘All By Myself’, she bounces about to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’. The world has shifted, we are being told, although it hasn’t shifted that much. She seems less obsessed by dieting and Chardonnay but is still a hapless klutz. Older yet no wiser, other reviewers have sniffed, but as I am older yet no wiser myself, I can accommodate that. (I would even say I get a little less wise every day.)
Bridget is now a (highly improbable) producer of hard TV news who is middle-aged and facing irrelevance in the workplace (highly probable). She is single. Darcy has married someone else. That uber-cad Daniel Cleaver is nowhere to be seen because Hugh Grant (56, scraggy neck) refused to return, but the film deals with this quite brilliantly. (Can’t say how, but it is funny.) Bridget attends Glastonbury where Jack rescues her from a pratfall in the mud and she sleeps with him but two weeks later she bumps into Darcy, who confesses he has split from his wife, and she sleeps with him too. Now she’s up the duff, but who is the daddy? Bridget leads both to believe they are the father, for comic effect, although deep down I think we all know that’s quite a shitty thing to do. She is attended by an acerbic obstetrician (Thompson) who plays along and ultimately shoos both men from the delivery room on the grounds that watching a woman give birth is like ‘watching your favourite pub burn down’. This received the biggest laugh at the screening I attended although, if it sounded familiar, it’s because the remark was first made Robbie Williams in 2014. Just saying.
Still, it does have a few good jokes of its own, including a revolving-door set piece that will, I swear, have you laughing like a drain. But there may not be enough of them, while, disappointingly, her friends, Jude and Shazzer, barely appear as don’t her parents, played by Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent (67, as good as dead). Zellweger still cuts it as Bridge, capturing all the tics and squints we feel such affection for, so get over yourselves.
The far bigger question is the extent to which we still actually care. As the narrative drive — will she get it together with Darcy? — has now been wheeled out not once, not twice, but three times, I wonder who still has the heart for it? I would say I probably don’t care enough to see this at the cinema, but if I happened upon it on TV I would happily stay for the duration, and that’s the sort of film it is. Meanwhile, Ed Sheeran, 25, makes a cameo appearance and, man oh man, he has to do something about that hair. Has he never heard of Frizz Ease?