“Bridget Jones’s Baby,” in which our favorite diary-keeping singleton has a (spoiler alert) baby, begins with Ms. Jones (Renee Zellweger) alone on her 43rd birthday, listening to “All By Myself.” This tells us two things: that the music choices in these films are still v. on-the-nose, and that Bridget didn’t marry Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) even though they got engaged at the end of “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.”
This third adventure — which is not based on the third Bridget Jones novel but was written by its author, Helen Fielding, along with Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson — brings original director Sharon Maguire back to the fold, and is an all-around improvement on the lackluster “Edge of Reason” sequel. It’s hindered by a dumb-dumb plot, but Zellweger is as effervescent as ever in her signature role.
Several years have passed. Bridget has finally reached her target weight and is a producer on a TV news show. She hasn’t seen Darcy — who married someone else — in ages, but runs into him at a memorial service for her old flame Daniel, who has died (i.e., Hugh Grant didn’t want to be in the movie). Encouraged by a friend to quit pining and embrace hedonism, Bridget goes to a music festival, where she has a one-night stand (following obligatory meet-cute, of course) with Jack (Patrick Dempsey), an American dating-website billionaire. A week later she bumps into Darcy again, freshly split from his wife, and they, too, fall into the sack.
This is where you start wincing at the inevitability of it all. Bridget finds herself pregnant and isn’t sure whose it is. (I mean, it’s hers, obviously. But who else’s?) Cruelly (though the film doesn’t treat it as such), she lets Jack and Darcy both think they’re the father for a while, going so far as to stage two ultrasound screenings with her hilariously reluctant OB-GYN (played to perfection by Emma Thompson). When Bridget finally confesses that each suitor has a 50/50 chance of being the dad, Darcy and Jack compete to prove their worthiness as a partner and co-parent. These farcical shenanigans range from the very funny to the completely useless, depending on your tolerance for sitcom-y buffoonery.
Now, couldn’t Bridget settle the paternity question with a simple amniocentesis? Yes, yes she could. The doctor recommends this, but Bridget freaks out at the size of the needle and says nope, we have to wait till the baby is born to find out. That’s what I mean about a dum-dum plot: the conflict of the story could be solved easily but is dragged out by a character’s irrational choices.
Another example: When it is time to go to the hospital, Bridget and Jack encounter a roadblock. Instead of finding an alternate route, they abandon the car and Jack carries her to the hospital in his arms. There’s no logical reason for any of this, but the movie wanted to show Jack being chivalrous one more time.
The remarkable thing is that despite Bridget’s romantic double-dealing, despite being objectively terrible at her job (the scene where she unwittingly feeds her TV anchor inappropriate interview questions is more dum-dum stuff, though it made me laugh), she’s still a lovable, unlucky klutz. It’s a pleasure to see the character finally happy with her body, and to see her bumbling through social interactions again as in days of yore. Some sequels arrive too long after the audience’s affection has waned. But in this case, the extended absence — 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, and six years since Zellweger has been in any film — has made the heart grow fonder. Put simply, I was happy enough to see Ms. Jones and Ms. Zellweger again, and amused enough by the film’s bubbly comedy, that I don’t mind the flaws.
B- (2 hrs., 2 min.; )