'Bridget Jones's Baby' Has What It Takes to Please New and -- Ahem -- Old Fans Alike
By John Boone
Photo: Universal Pictures
I had never seen a Bridget Jones movie until recently. I was 12 when the original came out and hadn't yet developed an appreciation for the goings-on of a 30-something woman. It's remained a gap in my pop culture knowledge since, making Bridget Jones's Baby, the latest entry in her ongoing tales, my entry point.
Lest yet another movie gets reviewed by some dude, I did my due diligence and asked one of my coworkers, a true Bridget Joneshead who read all the books and had seen all the movies, what she would need from this threequel to feel satisfied as a fan.
Here is that list: 1) Hugh Grant ("But I don't think he's in it.") 2) Drunk Bridget. 3) A scene where Bridget totally misjudges an event by showing up in a terrible outfit. 4) Bridget's mom passive-aggressively shaming her. 5) Bridget being accidentally successful at work. 6) Bridget's friends giving her very mediocre advice.
"These are just my fave things in the first two movies," she expounded. "You just want her drunk and being British and falling in and out of love."
Bridget Jones's Baby picks up over a decade after author Helen Fielding's lovably browbeaten heroine traveled to the Edge of Reason. She's now 43 and single once again, after splitting with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) five years prior -- though Darcy is very much alive, unlike in the third novel, Mad About the Boy, where he died in a land-mine accident in Sudan.
After a rom-commy meet cute-turned-one night stand at a music festival with a new guy, matchmaking billionaire mathematician Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), and an unexpected rekindling with Mr. Darcy, Bridget finds herself pregnant...and not sure which of her suitors is dad.
I'm pleased to report that fans have plenty to love when it comes to Bridget's latest antics -- four of six things from the list, if we want to quantify it! The first moments alone are classic Bridget: she is drunk and bemoaning spending her birthday alone, blowing out a single candle on a sad cupcake to the musical stylings of "All by Myself." "How in the hell did I end up here again?" she asks in voiceover, before Bridget, in-the-flesh, grumbles, "F**k off" and switches the radio to House of Pain's "Jump Around," which she proceeds to do as she raps along in her PJs.
Rattling off a few more, her mum (Gemma Jones) does passive-aggressively shame her and sometimes just aggressively shames her, sparking Bridget's desire to "take her ovaries out of retirement" in the first place. Her bestie, Shazzer (Sally Phillips), now a mother of two, still dolls out some genuinely terrible advice, while a new, millennial pal, Miranda (Sarah Solemani), expounds on twosomes and threesomes and foursomes. As far as her career is concerned, Bridget is a top news producer with plenty of walk-and-talks to show for it -- though she equally mucks things up over a guy.
And Grant's Daniel Cleaver does sort of make a cameo, though his fate is too delicious to spoil here.
The crux of Bridget Jones's Baby is choosing #TeamDarcy or #TeamJack, though it seems like a forgone conclusion -- especially if you've listened to Ellie Goulding's contribution to the movie's soundtrack. (Turns out a song can be a spoiler.) The real joy is this cast, with Dempsey seemingly having a blast doing his charming best to provide a foil for Mr. Darcy and Emma Thompson devouring scenery as Bridget's OB/GYN, a human manifestation of the eye roll emoji.
Then there's Renée Zellweger, whose hiatus from our screens has not dulled her chops in the slightest. She is utterly captivating as ever. Her comedic timing has never been better. And it's more than a bit on the nose to say, considering the plot of the movie, but she can still charm the pants off anyone. It's high time for the Renéessance. (So it's a damn shame her next movie looks like white privilege drivel, then.)
The rest of the movie is a surprisingly pleasant blend of sweetness and hilarity, leaving you alternatingly swooning and cringing -- and now with more 2016 topics: Tinder! SoulCycle! Hipster beards! Skinny jeans! Hashtags! A tardy "Gangnam Style" joke! A startling amount of jokes about genocide and Hitler? And while Bridget has certainly refined herself from the "verbally incontinent spinster" of the first film, she is still obsessively preoccupied with her age and weight and finding a man. Watching, you may think, "We're still doing this?"
Be that as it may, Bridget Jones's Baby is the type of movie that makes you smile, and maybe we need more of that. And at least it passes the Bechdel test. (I think.) As the credits rolled, I had tears in my eyes and a grin on my face -- oh, and as I left the theater, I bought Bridget Jones's Diary on iTunes!