Over the past 15 years, the “Bridget Jones” film franchise has featured Bridget (Renée Zellweger), a British “singleton” who is looking for love while pursuing a TV journalism career and worrying about her weight giving her “wobbly bits.” All three movies have employed a traditional romantic comedy formula (meet cute, conflict, resolution, and partnership) but have also posed the real possibility that “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed. “Bridget Jones’s Baby” offers the latest installment in the series based on the books by Helen Fielding.
For both 2001’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and 2004’s uneven sequel “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” Bridget’s two romantic choices were devilish philanderer Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and divorced, serious, snobby lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). At the end of both films, Bridget and Mark appeared to be headed for a life together.
However, as the new “Baby” shows, that didn’t quite happen. Mark did get married (his second time), but not to Bridget. While Bridget is now a successful TV news producer and has lost the weight she worried about, romantic happiness is still elusive. A one night stand with charming American Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) and a reuniting with Mark, who is in the process of a divorce, create potential matches. But, when Bridget learns she’s pregnant, the question of who the father is, and how this should be handled, leads to further complications.
Zellweger, Dempsey, and Firth compose an interesting triangle in “Baby.” Throughout the film series, both Zellweger and Firth have successfully made two socially awkward characters- Bridget prone to major goof ups and Mark with an overly uptight personality- appealing, sympathetic, and ultimately romantic. As the newcomer, Dempsey brings good looks and an easy-going manner to Jack.
The series has wisely retained many of the original cast to support Bridget’s on-again, off-again romantic quests. Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones are always entertaining as her caring, but occasionally embarrassing, parents. Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson, and James Callis are Bridget’s ever supportive “urban family” of friends. For “Baby” they are joined by Emma Thompson as Bridget’s wry, matter-of-fact Ob-Gyn and Sarah Solemani as Miranda, the anchor of Bridget’s “Hard News” TV show.
Overseeing all the action is director Sharon Maguire, who also directed the original “Diary.” Maguire’s timing and guidance is as much appreciated this time as it was in the first outing.
The script for “Baby,” by author Fielding, Dan Mazer, and actress Emma Thompson, openly acknowledges a fairytale aspect to Bridget’s saga. More than once, Jack refers to Cinderella. The two potential fathers of Bridget’s baby are a billionaire (Jack) and a world-famous lawyer (Mark). But, the writers avoid any gold-digger possibility, with Bridget pursuing a much harder commodity to find- genuine love.
Along the way, there are very funny scenes involving Bridget unintentionally, but royally, messing up at work. The one weak point is when, in an attempt at humor, the trip to the hospital defies logic with Mark overlooking an available police escort and Jack appearing out of nowhere.
“Baby” includes tributes to the original “Diary.” Fans will immediately recognize the pop ballad “All By Myself” and then will be happy to see Bridget switch to dancing to “Jump Around” as she decides not to mope about life. And, the end credits are capped off by a Christmas photo that is a heartwarming nod to the original’s meet cute.