Arriving 15 years after “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and a dozen since its sequel, “Bridget Jones’s Baby” is a not-so-special delivery. Sweet, slight and fitfully funny, it’s a movie admirers of the earlier films should mildly enjoy, but cast in terms any new parent can understand, isn’t worth the price of a sitter.
Renee Zellweger is back as the self-doubting heroine, whose innermost thoughts are the audience’s constant companion. Having failed to find happily ever after with the dashing but buttoned-up Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), she’s single, about to turn 43 and dealing with the fact most of her friends have paired off and procreated.
Numbing herself with self-pity and chardonnay, Bridget gets dragged (actually, shanghaied) to an outdoor music festival, where she pretty literally stumbles into bed with Jack (Patrick Dempsey, yes, still McDreamy), who turns out to be a wealthy entrepreneur.
By chance, she also twice runs into Darcy, falling back into bed with him at the second event.
Yet if Bridget’s sexual dry spell is over, her headaches have just begun. Not only does she discover she’s pregnant, but because of the proximity of the trysts, there’s no way to know who the father is – a predicament that seems to highly amuse her doctor (a very funny Emma Thompson, who also shares script credit with “Bridget Jones” author Helen Fielding and Dan Mazer).
Director Sharon Maguire (reprising that role from the original) wrings what humor she can from what feels like an awfully familiar, bordering-on-tired premise for a romantic comedy. Much of that comes from terribly awkward interviews that Bridget’s self-absorption inadvertently triggers at her day job as a TV producer.
Still, the filmmakers also rely too heavily on musical montages (and even toss in some old clips) and naughty language, before a climactic section that’s sort-of cute but ultimately not worth the energy expended getting there.
Over its two hours, the movie’s primary motivation seems to be drawing out the suspense about the protagonist’s eventual choice, complete with #TeamDarcy or #TeamJack hash tags. While Zellweger slips easily enough back into the role – the snarky speculation about her appearance notwithstanding – the “Which dreamboat will she pick?” meme certainly qualifies as a high-class problem.
Frankly, the most interesting aspect of this recent trend toward long-delayed sequels (think “Finding Dory” and “Independence Day: Resurgence”) is what it says about the perceived appetite for nostalgia, as well as films whose theatrical afterlife is robust enough to make studios eager to cash in on known commodities think it’s time for a return engagement.
Yet based on this lackluster outing, it’s not unreasonable to hope that Bridget’s kid has grown up considerably before anyone seeks to pry open her diary again.
“Bridget Jones’s Baby” opens September 16. It’s rated R.