Fans of Bridget Jones's Diary can finally rejoice: After 15 years and one inept sequel (2004's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), the perpetually loveless Londoner is back in fine form with a witty, feel-good third outing. Renée Zellweger, who earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for the first film, slips back into her signature role as the sweet, adorable klutz with ease and great assurance, as Bridget once again gets entwined in a sticky love triangle.
Baby opens in similar fashion as Diary, with Bridget sitting alone on her sofa in sad flannel pajamas while listening to "All by Myself" on her stereo and wondering: "How in the hell did I end up here again?" But instead of wallowing in the self-pitying lyrics as she did before, she quickly snaps off the song and changes it to House of Pain's "Jump Around," proceeding to bounce up and down on her bed while lip-synching to the high-energy tune. It signals a change in attitude for the 43-year-old singleton, who is now a successful TV news producer. She may be alone, but alone doesn't have to mean lonely. When anchorwoman and best pal Miranda (a very good Sarah Solemani) suggests that the two of them attend a music festival that's "Sodom and Gomorrah with tofu," Bridget willingly tags along. There, she is rescued from a face-plant in the mud by a handsome American named Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), and the two later hook up after Bridget mistakenly stumbles into his tent during a night of hard partying. Less than a fortnight later, she's bedded by former flame Mark Darcy (a perfectly stiff and never-better Colin Firth) when the two meet by chance at a christening while he's in the midst of a divorce. It isn't long before Bridget realizes she is "up the duff," i.e., pregnant. But who's the father?
The jazzy script, written by Emma Thompson, Dan Mazer, and Helen Fielding (the latter of whom wrote the books that the character originated from), mine the "geriatric" mother-to-be's predicament for numerous belly laughs, none better than the sight of the two potential dads trying to carry and squeeze a very pregnant Bridget through a hospital's revolving door. It's one of several humorous set pieces expertly choreographed by returning Diary director Sharon Maguire and performed with crack comic timing by all involved. In fact, the supporting cast deserve special mention: Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones pop up again as Bridget's sometimes annoying but always adoring parents, as do Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson, and James Callis as her loyal trio of besties. Meanwhile, welcome new scene-stealers Kate O'Flynn (playing Bridget's cheeky boss) and Emma Thompson (as a droll obstetrician) manage to nail every comic moment they're given.
Sadly, the movie is missing Hugh Grant's rakish Daniel Cleaver, whom we learn early on has recently died. But at least the dearly departed rascal is still able to produce some big laughs, as his funeral is attended by an assortment of naïve conquests who all think they were his one-and-only true love.
Bridget Jones admirers will undoubtedly relish their beloved heroine's latest comic misadventures, and while they may not be quite as fresh the third time around, this movie still serves up plenty of knowing smiles and heartfelt laughter. And it provides evidence that rumors of the death of the romantic comedy have been -- thankfully -- wildly exaggerated.