Having attempted and failed to maintain a relationship with Mr. D'Arcy (Colin Firth), Bridget Jones has resigned herself to life as a spinster in her forties and focuses on her career. However, a chance encounter with an American tech guru (Patrick Dempsey) and the old flame Mr. D'Arcy a few weeks later leaves Jones pregnant and unable to tell who's the father.
After the truly so-so Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, it seemed as though Helen Fielding's literary creation had served its purpose on screen - especially seeing as how Renee Zellwegger had gone on an extended hiatus and the two were inextricably linked. However, since Zellwegger has returned to the land of the living, a third one was inevitable. But the question is, has everyone moved on from Bridget Jones? Is it still relevant?
For the most part, Renee Zellwegger has lost none of her charms or effectiveness with the character. The film goes to great pains to acknowledge that, after 40, it's fully acceptable to be single and living in a flat - even if all of Jones' friends are now married with kids. The film kicks off with Zellwegger explaining why she's celebrating her birthday alone before launching into the film's central plot. Essentially, Bridget Jones is now pregnant after having a one-off fling with an American tech entrepreneur (Patrick Dempsey) at a music festival - which she attends in heels and pulling a wheelie suitcase - and, two weeks later, has a quick tumble in the hay with her old flame, Mark Darcy. What makes Bridget Jones' Baby slightly difficult to get on board with is that it spends half the film playing up the ridiculousness of her not knowing who the father is - even roping the straight-faced gynecologist Emma Thompson to help with the scheme - before it dumps that whole thing and then tries to play it like a standard rom-com. It's almost as though the writing staff, which includes Emma Thompson, Helen Fielding and Dan Mazer, dropped half of the story in a hurry and then had to scramble together an ending in quick fashion.
Zellwegger, as mentioned, has charm and screen presence to spare and it's heartening to see her back on form as Jones. While she might not have the best lines in the film - those are reserved for Emma Thompson, who steals each and every scene she's in - there's enough warmth in her portrayal to make it convincing. Colin Firth, meanwhile, is all straight-backed Britishness and plays the role completely straight without the slightest hint of humour - which is the point of Mark Darcy, as we know. For the most part, he's fine in the role and plays it within the confines laid down by his previous efforts. Patrick Dempsey, meanwhile, is nothing more than a two-dimensional, all-round good guy that turns up at random intervals to remind us that he has perfect teeth and is great with kids. Emma Thompson, as previously mentioned, is the real star and when she's on screen, she's the funniest person in the room. One particular line explaining seeing a live pregnancy for the first time is sure to induce a cackle from any audience.
For the most part, director Sharon Maguire knows how to get through a scene with all the beats intact. The editing is sharp enough to not allow anyone particular scene to linger indefinitely and the film has a decent enough pace to it. It's more the fact that the story, for the most part, is somewhat bland. It's hard to know how you can make a pregnancy interesting, even if the mother doesn't know who the father is. What's more, the screenplay basically dumps that initial premise and moves it into a holding pattern. Why bother spending half the film setting it all up if you're just going to chock the thing because it's run out of steam? Likewise, only two out of the three main characters are actually given any kind of development, meaning that there's one there that's essentially a cardboard cut-out, i.e. Patrick Dempsey. Why bother having in the film at all if he's not going to at least have some sort of depth?
For the most part, Bridget Jones's Baby is a perfectly serviceable comedy. It's directed with a light touch and Zellwegger knows the character well in order to make it an entertaining, if somewhat pointless journey. It's an engaging enough comedy with a few laugh-out-loud moments, but there's not enough here to keep it memorable.