It's easy to be cynical about a movie like Bridget Jones's Baby, a sequel that was clearly assembled from the ground up as an entertainment industry product—a guaranteed payday for its stars and studio. This is a movie that's already been made twice, and the third installment is essentially an exercise in brand awareness, dutifully adherent to a commercially viable blueprint.
It's also true, however, that Bridget Jones's Baby is a pretty good time at the movies. It's got plenty of laughs, a hopelessly lovable central character, and a script that is occasionally smarter than it strictly needs to be. “Occasionally” is the critical term here. For every sharp gag from the writing team, you'll need to sit through five or six scenes that play like outtakes from a particularly witless Sex and the City episode.
Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger), now a forty-three-year-old London TV producer, is talked into attending an outdoor music festival to get what's left of her groove back. In an improbably glamorous yurt, she enjoys a one-night stand with Jack (Patrick Dempsey), who turns out to be the billionaire inventor of an online dating app that matches couples via algorithm.
A week later, Bridget reunites with her old flame, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), and they wind up in bed, too. Sure enough, Bridget soon discovers she's pregnant. But who's the father? A DNA test would quickly solve the dilemma, but Bridget is afraid of the amniocentesis needle—which, to be fair, looks like it was designed by the U.S. Department of Defense.
What follows is an uneven series of farcical set pieces that never quite accelerate to the velocity of true screwball comedy. Zellweger is great, though. Her performance in the original movie is a master class in comic screen acting, and here, she conjures that magic again, presenting a Bridget who's older and wiser but still prone to incidents of epic social awkwardness.
Director Sharon Maguire, returning from the first film, stages a few very funny sequences. At a funeral for the earlier films' caddish man-slut, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), the camera slowly pans over the grieving assemblage, which appears to include most of the Eastern European modeling community. Several of the film's funniest scenes feature Bridget's obstetrician, played by co-writer Emma Thompson in the key of classic British understatement.
Alas, these quieter and cleverer moments are too often shouted down by lame double entendres and tired gags concerning MILFs, cougars, and too much Chardonnay. Is there anything more depressing than aging adults making tipsy wink-nudge jokes about naughty sex? I submit that there is not.
If you feel insulted by the cloying and predictable “surprise” ending, don't worry overmuch. That is the correct response. Bridget Jones's Baby aims for the middle—those dead-center coordinates that maximize commercial appeal—and hits the mark. It's a shame, really. I loved that first movie, really loved it, so I wish the filmmakers had aimed higher. Nothing much is risked; nothing much is gained. Such a rich and nuanced comic character deserves a better sendoff.