Over a decade after Bridget said “yes” to her Mr Darcy, she is alone again in a total hoot of a sequel, outdoing the second film by far (almost matching the first), perhaps because the scatty diarist is carrying a lot more baggage now.
Reprising the iconic role, Renée Zellweger bears the burden well (unafraid to show a few wrinkles) and gives it plenty of gusto from the off, when Bridget celebrates her 43rd birthday with a cupcake and plenty of wine. She is older but no wiser despite putting her career first for once.
Colin Firth slips back into the Mark Darcy role like a glove – or a wet shirt – married, but alas, not to Bridget. Helen Fielding’s third Bridget Jones novel had fans up in arms by submitting him to an even worse fate, but director Sharon Maguire (who made her big screen debut with the first film in 2001) works instead from a script based on Fielding’s columns for The Independent in 2005.
Here, it’s Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver who is pushed out of the picture, but it’s the loss of Darcy that impels Bridget to put her heart into her work. Still, she is in danger of losing that, too, when a team of young executive hipsters are drafted in to take the news viral.
Behind the scenes Zellweger has some great X-rated banter with Sarah Solemani, a standout as a newsreader so outrageously saucy – cleverly timing her quips between headline soundbites – she’d make Fiona Bruce blush. She urges Bridget to cut loose and get “dirty” at a muddy music festival and after a bit of good old-fashioned slapstick Bridget is soon falling into bed with Patrick Dempsey’s suave American self-help guru Jack Qwant.
Not much later, a run-in with Darcy and a lot more wine leaves her twisted in the sheets once again and torn over what to do when she finds out she’s “up the duff”.
Emma Thompson tickles the ribs as Bridget’s doctor, who wearily plays along when the expectant mother brings Darcy and Qwant to alternate appointments, too cowardly to tell one about the other. Thompson also co-wrote the script with Fielding and Dan Mazer (Sacha Baron Cohen’s frequent collaborator since Ali G) and together they trump the Edge of Reason with a sassier, more satisfying mix of dry wit and knockabout comedy. Apart from Bridget’s obvious dilemma, they draw on her insecurities about balancing motherhood with a career and ageing in an industry that prizes youth – and YouTube – above experience.
Kate O’Flynn certainly grabs the attention as Bridget’s new boss, a hilarious glossy-lipped Goth/Goebbels cross, only impressed by Bridget when she books Jack as a guest and proceeds to interrogate him, live on TV, about his sex life.
Even if the machinations of the plot are highly unlikely and predictable, like the best British comedy, there are moments that make you cringe as well as laugh out loud.
Along with that, there’s a familiarity about Bridget – and her inclination to show herself up, instinctively played by Zellweger – that heightens those pivotal moments when she could just tell the truth and chooses not to.
Elsewhere, there is an edge to Dempsey’s Mr Nice Guy that could have run deeper to make the character more interesting in a Cleaverish sort of way, but the push and pull between him and Firth (stoic as ever) is nicely played as Bridget decides who she wants to raise her child. The scene where she is forced to introduce them to each other – dragging in a random bystander named Ariyaratna Sithamparanathan to try and defuse the situation – is classic.
Witty, playful touches like this and a sterling supporting cast that brings back Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones as mum and dad, Celia Imrie as mum’s bestie and Sally Phillips as Bridget’s confidante, ensure that Bridget Jones’s Baby is a bundle of joy.
Bridget Jones’s Baby is in cinemas from Friday 16th September
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news