Directed by Sharon Maguire
Starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Emma Thompson
Released on 16th September 2016
Let’s start with the ground rules. Rule Number One. I’m not going to speculate about Renee Zellweger’s appearance. It’s been done to death. I will say that she looks markedly different to the Bridget from the other two films and there’s some flashback footage to make the point. But the last film was 12 years ago, so it would be very odd if she – or, indeed, any of the cast – hadn’t changed. Although pouting in an effort to look younger doesn’t help.
Rule Number Two. I’m not the target audience for this. I’ve never done chick-lit, it holds no appeal to me and I was the wrong age when the first Bridget Jones book came out. But it certainly struck a chord with a particular age group at the time, so its finger was well and truly on the pulse and the bottle of Chardonnay. So I wasn’t expecting a great deal from this, either by way of humour or anything else.
With that out of the way, we’ve got part three of a saga for the second time in three weeks, this time one that started in 2001 with the film of Bridget Jones’s Diary. The original director is back as well, Sharon Maguire, and author Helen Fielding continues to have a hand in the screenplay. So is a lot of the cast. So, not unlike Brotherhood a few weeks ago, people who saw and enjoyed the first two – and, in this case, the books as well – are likely to flock to the flix to see how their favourite singleton is getting on now she’s hit her 40s.
The title and the poster rather give things away. Now a producer for a TV news channel, Bridget is fed up of spending her birthdays on her own and goes away for a weekend with colleague, presenter Miranda (Sarah Solemani). They end up at a muddy music festival, where Bridget meets Jack (Patrick Dempsey) and ends up spending the night with him. Back home, she goes to the christening of Jude’s (Shirley Henderson) latest offspring and runs into old flame, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). He’s recently separated from his wife and, lo and behold, he and Bridget end up spending the night together as well. A few weeks later she discovers she’s pregnant. But who’s the daddy?
Despite what one of the posters would have you believe, the famous big pants don’t even get a cameo – that goes instead to Ed Sheeran – and yet this is the very episode where she would need generous fitting garments, under and over. Her diary now is her iPad, although compared to the young turks brought in to sharpen up her channel, she’s ever so slightly out of date. That chaotic world of TV makes an easy enough target for the writers, but it’s surprisingly well done, even if there are moments that jangle a bell or two. Like when Miranda believes she’s interviewing a Far Eastern despot, but sat facing her on the set is his chauffeur, who can’t answer any of her questions and looks generally bewildered.
There’s an all-pervading feeling of familiarity and comfort, which also produces much of the humour. There’s new faces as well, most notably Emma Thompson’s doctor, who looks after Bridget during her pregnancy and delivers the baby. She is priceless, is gifted some of the best lines in the film and milks them for all they’re worth. Once the baby is born, there has to be a DNA test to determine the father. Which, as Thompson puts it, is rather like being on X Factor. “Dial 1 if you want it to be Jack. Dial 2 if you want it to be Mark.”
The other stand-out is Gemma Jones as Bridget’s Mum, this time a wannabe Thatch aiming for a seat on the local council. She dresses just like the leaderene and there’s more than a little physical resemblance. One of her best moments is predictable, but all the better for it. When she hears that Bridget has gone into labour, she announces to her party workers that “we’ve just heard we are about to become a grandmother.” And it’s those two performances that highlight the film’s big weakness. Zellweger. She’s ever so slightly wooden, awkward and doesn’t give the impression of getting any pleasure at being in the film. It’s no wonder she’s completely upstaged by Thompson and Jones, both of whom are nothing but a pleasure to watch. Thompson especially plays her role with good old fashioned brio and looks like she was having a ball. Zellweger doesn’t.
Did I enjoy it? Much to my surprise, yes, although probably not quite as much as all the younger women at the screening I attended. It’s frothy, it’s funny, it’s definitely one for the fans and that means it’ll be a big hit at the box office. It’s a good Friday night giggle – and nothing more.
Bridget Jones’s Baby is released in cinemas on Friday, 16 September and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 15 September.