Unless you’ve been travelling in Mongolia, you’ll know by now that Bridget Jones is back — well past her 40th birthday, but still agonising, although less over calorie intake than who might be the father of her unborn child.
Come to think of it, maybe the news has reached Mongolia. The Great Neurotic’s return has certainly been treated like an event of global significance. First Brexit, now Bridget.
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Labour pains: Renee Zellweger as Bridget with Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey
In fairness, I enjoyed seeing her back on the big screen more than I thought I would; writers Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson have done a decent job of dragging Bridget into middle age.
Renee Zellweger invests her with as much likeability as ever, but hasn’t bothered to pile on the pounds this time, which seems to have left some fans feeling betrayed.
Certainly, this is not the woman who lamented in the last film, 2004’s Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, that ‘I will always be a little bit fat’ and, demolishing ice cream by the bucket-load, relished her relationship with two men simultaneously, namely Ben and Jerry.
No, this time her increasingly round belly is about another pair of men: her old flame Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and a dishy American matchmaking- website mogul, Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey).
As a consequence of using her biodegradable condoms, which are well past their sell-by date, one of them has got her pregnant during a one-night-stand. But which?
The film starts by establishing how things have moved on for Bridget in the 12 years since we last met her. She’s 43 and still living in the same flat. She and Mark have long since split up, while the other big love of her life, slimey Daniel Cleaver (formerly played by Hugh Grant, who reportedly declined a role this time round), appears to be dead.
Dragged into middle age: Renee Zellweger invests her with as much likeability as ever
So Bridget is single again, which is not so unlikely. On the other hand, she has also become a TV news producer, which is broadly as improbable as learning that Indiana Jones (definitely no relation) has moved on from the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to become a lollipop man. TV news producers need to be paragons of efficiency and snappy decision-making, which Bridget very much isn’t.
But then, that’s where the comedy lies, and the job also yields a new best friend in the form of news presenter Miranda (Sarah Solemani).
Who’s the daddy? Renee Zellweger and Patrick Dempsey
Miranda makes it her mission to find Bridget a mate, and takes her to a music festival, which is where she falls for Jack — literally, to start with, which of course is inevitable, since she is still the world’s most hapless woman. However, she then bumps into Mark at a christening, and bump is soon the operative word, with Emma Thompson playing the obstetrician in that very brisk, bossy ET way of hers.
The film’s biggest laughs all spring from the pregnancy, and the uncertainty about who is the father.
I thought my 23-year-old daughter was going to need treatment herself during a beautifully choreographed piece of slapstick, when Bridget goes into labour and both men carry her to the hospital.
But with the exception of that scene and one or two others, I couldn’t shake off a slight sense that Bridget, rather like those condoms, might be past her sell-by date.
Fielding’s literary creation was so perfectly in tune with her times, and remained so when the first film came out in 2001.
But the times have changed and Bridget hasn’t really kept pace. I don’t hold with anything that’s been written about the supposed surgical interference in 47-year-old Zellweger’s looks. She looks fabulous to me. But maybe that’s part of the problem: would Bridget in 2016 really be looking like a sleek movie star?
Perhaps it doesn’t matter. It’s just fiction, after all. But the original Bridget Jones spoke to a generation of women and this one doesn’t.
Significantly, the one-liner that tickled me most at last week’s glitzy world premiere didn’t come from the film at all, but from the director, Sharon Maguire, who walked on stage in her clingy frock and admitted: ‘I can barely breathe. I’m wearing three pairs of Spanx.’