Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is back. She’s older (the film opens just shy of her 43rd birthday), more successful but not much wiser as she becomes pregnant and is unsure by whom: long-term love interest Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) or new American suitor Jack Quant (Patrick Dempsey). As the birth nears, who will turn out to be the daddy?
The third in the Bridget Jones franchise opens in a familiar fashion: Bridget is alone, an overflowing glass of white wine in clenched fist as she sadly sways on her sofa to the strains of All By Myself. Until suddenly she stops, exclaims 'Fuck off!', switches off Sad FM and flips on House of Pain. And just like that Bridget is back: still bumbling and fumbling but immediately funnier and sharper than before.
Picking up 12 years after the not-so successful second film Edge Of Reason, much has changed: Bridget and Mark Darcy have been apart for five years, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) is not around (we won't spoil how or why, but it's a highlight of the film) and Bridget is single again and focusing on friendships and her job as a top news producer. Just as it sounds, Bridget Jones's Baby is about Bridget and her rather unexpected baby, conceived after either a one-off bunk-up with the American entrepreneur she meets at a festival or a one-off bunk-up with Mr Darcy at a christening.
Though the story occasionally stretches credibility, the warmth and wit propels you along.
Though the story occasionally stretches credibility, the warmth and wit so reminiscent of the original Bridget Jones's Diary propels you along, being due in large part to the return of one woman: director Sharon Maguire. You feel her filthy, funny thumbprints pressed on almost every scene, and it's clear that the key chemistry in Bridget will never be between her and a male love interest but between Zellweger and Maguire. Theirs is a particular alchemy.
Which, truthfully, is something to be thankful for as ultimately, while the dynamic between Zellweger and Firth is as solid as ever, her pairing with Dempsey never delivers; him playing a one-note nice guy with a megawatt smile.
The real stand-out is Emma Thompson who wrote and created her own part as Bridget’s doctor and shamelessly steals every single scene with a wonderful collection of one-liners (most memorably advising the expectant fathers to leave the delivery room as her “ex-husband described it as watching his favourite pub burn down”).
Sarah Solemani is also a welcome addition as Bridget’s thirty-something work friend Miranda, bringing a razor sharp sense of comic timing and lending a surprising but welcome relevance to Bridget in 2016.
Most pleasing though is the message of the new Bridget Jones. While she’s long had a bumpy relationship with feminism, being accused of looking for life’s solutions in a relationship with a man, the central message delivered with a punch is that actually it’s irrelevant who the daddy is. The relationship that matters most is the one she’s developing with her child and ultimately, the one she has with herself. You have to have a heart of coal not to laugh (a lot), cry (a bit) and leave wanting to see it all over again.
More than a match for the original, the third outing for Bridget has a solid story with holes you’ll forgive thanks to the much-missed onscreen magic created by a director and her leading woman.