By Hannah Williams
“Bridget Jones’s Baby” opens on the familiar scene of Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) sitting in her living room alone on her 43rd birthday, blowing out a single lopsided candle on a cupcake. “All By Myself” plays in the background, until she decides that’s just too sad. She switches the music abruptly to “Jump Around,” which she joyfully lip-syncs to while jumping around her apartment.
Despite this childish moment, Bridget has grown up a lot since her last on-screen appearance in 2004. She got a job as a news producer, complete with younger friends who aren’t obsessed with marriage and children, and she quit smoking (totally) and drinking (mostly).
This Bridget seems to be much more comfortable with her body than she was in the previous movies when all her diary entries included her current weight. Sometime between films, she split up with Mark Darcy, played by Colin Firth, and is single. Despite that, she isn’t unhappy with her life.
“Bridget Jones’s Baby” follows the original 2001 film “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and the sequel “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.” “Diary” was a smash hit based on Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name, while “Edge of Reason” was the mostly hit-or-miss followup.
Director Sharon Maguire returned from the first film, having ducked out of the inferior sequel. Maguire brought with her the same screwball-esque comedic style that I and others loved from the first film.
Notably absent from this film is Hugh Grant, who played Bridget’s other suitor Daniel Cleaver in the previous films. Instead, Bridget’s second love interest is American billionaire and dating site guru Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), who pulls her out of the mud at a music festival she attends with her work friend, Miranda (Sarah Solemani).
In “Baby,” Bridget becomes unexpectedly pregnant after having separate one night stands with both Jack and Mark. Bridget then tries to work out which one of them is the father without the two finding out about each other. Of course, such a con can only be maintained for so long before they inevitably find out about one another. What follows is a series of comical misadventures, in the style of the original film, in which the two compete for Bridget’s affections.
The film sets up an interesting and modern commentary on love and family. The addition of dating site culture keeps the film more in line with contemporary culture. While Bridget and Jack match up well on his dating site (they’re 97 percent compatible), she and Mark don’t (8 percent). Like in life, love isn’t something that can be worked out entirely on paper.
Another modern update was the role of family in the film. Families don’t always have to be the traditional nuclear unit that was once required in society, and Mark loves Bridget whether or not the child is biologically his. I wasn’t expecting this from the film.
One of the best performances in the film was by franchise newcomer Emma Thompson, who played Bridget’s OB/GYN and also wrote the screenplay. Thompson’s character brings a wry, no nonsense humor to the generally nonsensical world of the Jones’ franchise. It’s different for the film, but a breath of fresh air.
The real comedic backbone of the film, though, is Bridget herself. She’s awkward, she’s relatable and she’s sort of a disaster. Zellweger revives her original performance in full force and brings back every lovable aspect of Bridget despite a 12 year gap between portrayals.
“Baby” is fun. While it doesn’t quite live up to the hilarity of the original, it easily overtakes “Edge of Reason” in likeability. There are quite a few laughs to be had and it’ll likely please fans of the series and newcomers alike, although the nostalgic feeling it gives veteran audience members is part of the magic.
Overall, it’s a fitting, albeit long-awaited and slightly unexpected, conclusion to this lovable character’s escapades.