"Bridget Jones' Baby" is a surprisingly funny, smart, adorable romantic comedy. Yes, really.
When I heard that there was going to be another Bridget Jones movie I thought, wow, that is going to be the worst film of the year. The previous two Bridget Jones movies combined comedic and romantic highpoints and low points.
In the first film, "Bridget Jones' Diary," there is the legendary "I like you just as you are" staircase scene, where the impeccable and quite possibly inhumanly perfect Colin Firth (as Mark Darcy) walks down a staircase that showcases his luscious long legs and tells plump, goofy, perpetually self-sabotaging Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) that he likes her just as she is.
If you've never seen the film, you can watch that scene – over and over – on youtube, where fans have posted multiple copies of it, and watched and re-watched it hundreds of thousands of times. How to find it? Just start typing "I like you just as…" and Google will finish the sentence for you. There's also a scene where Mark Darcy cooks dinner with Bridget Jones. If I die watching that scene, I will die happy.
The Bridget Jones movies also include hysterically funny fistfights between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant as the two men vying for Bridget's affections.
But for all their perfect moments, the Bridget Jones movies also included cringe-worthy, masochist, misogynist scenes where Bridget is made out to be the butt of highly humiliating jokes.
And "Bridget Jones Diary" was released *fifteen years ago.* Renee Zellweger was already in her thirties. Part of the point of the film was that she was a spinster who had not found a man and was desperate to do so. Fifteen years later, Renee Zellweger is 47, subject of a tsunami of articles and internet posts arguing that she has committed the unforgiveable sin, in a woman, of aging. She is too damn old, fanboys and girls stamp and shout. She should be retired to a remote, cloistered nunnery; if she must venture out, it is only with a bag firmly affixed over her old-lady face.
Zellweger had plastic surgery and it ruined her, some allege. Others are enraged that she didn't have enough plastic surgery. Everyone is ready with pitchforks and torches to burn the lady for surviving past age 25.
And, finally, a romantic comedy about a woman in her forties who gets pregnant and does not know who the father is? Yuck.
In spite of all my misgivings, I went to the theater anyway, and "Bridget Jones' Baby" rapidly eliminated all my resistance. I laughed out loud throughout this movie, and I can't remember the last time I laughed so much during a first run Hollywood comedy. In "Bridget Jones' Baby," the emphasis is much more on comedy than it is on romance. Everything is played for laughs. The jokes are broad, low-brow, and slapstick. Don't expect sophisticated wit. Think nekkid bums and b00bs.
Bridget Jones is a TV producer. She is single. She and Mark made a go of it, but separated. He is now married to someone else. Bridget has a couple of one-night stands and relies on outdated, ecologically friendly prophylactics. Emma Thompson is her gynecologist. Go see this movie for Thompson's performance alone. If you don't laugh at her, I don't want to know you.
Patrick Dempsey is the other potential father. During every scene he's in, all I could think was, did his mother dip him in a magical river shortly after he was born? Dempsey is so obscenely handsome. He also comes across as being such a nice guy. He's just pure pleasure. His fireplace-warm and crackly good humor keeps the potentially awkward plot bouncing along, never getting too serious or painful.
I really think it's a human rights abuse that not every woman is issued her very own Colin Firth. He is arguably the perfect man. He may be the last living actor who can convincingly play a gentleman. Again, the film is played for laughs, but there is one scene that is heartbreakingly real. Firth is informed that Bridget is pregnant. He is so overwhelmed with emotion that he must leave the room. It's a small moment, but a poignant one, amidst the rest of the bedroom farce.
Renee Zellweger has aged, as have we all. But she's great. She inhabits Bridget, and steals our hearts.
The rest of the cast includes Bridget's funny, wacky mom, who is involved in an election meant to mirror current politics. Those brief scenes are as funny as the rest of the movie. Bridget's gang of friends are onhand, and seeing them feels as good as a reunion with your own old gang with whom you raised heck when you were young. As for the Hugh Grant character … go see the film. I don't want to spoil it for you.