Bridget Jones’s Baby goes back to the very start, with an opening scene that recalls the first movie: Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) alone in her apartment, celebrating her birthday with a cupcake to the strains of All by Myself. It turns out that she didn’t end up with Mark (Colin Firth), and is still single in her early 40s. But then, she goes to a music festival and ends up having a one-night stand with American Internet billionaire Jack (Patrick Dempsey). And while at a christening a week later, she runs into Mark and shares a bed with him as well. Bridget starts out determined not to make anything more out of those trysts, but then she finds out that she’s pregnant.
Bridget balks at a risky test that could determine who the father is while she’s still pregnant. And then in true Bridget Jones fashion, she messes up trying to tell them about the situation. Mark and Jack end up both committing to taking care of Bridget through her pregnancy, and get competitive with each other as they vie for her affection. And all the while Bridget is also trying to stay afloat with her job as a TV producer, her show now under the thumb of a new, vicious, and very young boss.
Conceptually, the film is a little hard to swallow. It isn’t that this story is outlandish. It’s just that this is a Bridget Jones movie that isn’t really about Bridget Jones. This character has traveled a long way already, and it feels like the filmmakers don’t have anything left to say about her. She doesn’t really have anything more to learn. In the world of the film, it is precisely her imperfections that make her so worth loving. She may be a mess, and she may do the wrong thing most of the time, but that isn’t what’s keeping us from a happy ending.
Instead, this is really a film about Mark Darcy, her on-again, off-again great love that has apparently failed her before and must now become a better man when faced with some new competition. It is he that learns the lessons in this film, part of a strange larger fantasy of rehabilitating cads. And in doing this, the film stays firmly in the past, reiterating realizations seemingly made fourteen years ago.
In practice, though, a lot of this is still pretty funny. The story gets iffy at points, but the dialogue is snappy and the comedy lands well. There are fine bits of physical comedy as well that belie the stodgy attitudes that the film presents elsewhere. A game cast really helps as well. Renee Zellweger is still as willing as ever to look the fool in playing Bridget’s particular brand of mess. Much has been made of the way she looks now, but it’s immaterial to the performance in the end. She’s as committed as she’s ever been. Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey are all right as her leading. Emma Thompson, who also co-wrote the movie steals the show as Bridget’s acerbic doctor.
Bridget Jones’s Baby was always going to be a bit of a nostalgia act. The film goes back in time in bringing this character. While she exists in the present world, and she’s given a new burden to carry, the story is still essentially the same: Bridget Jones is a lovable mess, and the men around her just have to make that jump to find happiness. There are funny moments, certainly, and the cast is pretty terrific. It is a film that is hard to object to in the moment, because there’s plenty of energy and the craft is coming through. But in the end, it’s a little tough to say what new things we really got out of the movie.