Renee Zellweger is back as novelist Helen Fielding’s hugely popular character in “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.” It is the sequel to 2001’s worldwide smash comedy “Bridget Jones‚ Diary.” And, although it is not quite as funny or believable as the first movie, the lovable Ms. Jones just squeaks by on her own (and her returning co-stars’) charisma.
Since the insecure and unlucky Bridget actually got the guy at the end of “Diary,” her newest adventure must be a different kind sad sack tale. Rather than trying to get the guy, she is now trying to keep him. But if that were as easy it seems (and don’t all happy endings last forever?), then we wouldn’t have a movie.
The guy in question is one Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), an attractive, yet emotionally bottled-up lawyer. Firth has really become comfortable playing the strong and tolerant type. Bridget should see how good she has it when all the jealous doubts she has about Darcy keep turning out to be figments of her imagination.
Or are they? There’s a gorgeous new intern that keeps popping up at Darcy’s house and on his phone messages. Bridget’s catty group of friends give her bad advice, as these characters often do in movies like this, so that she can get herself into some stupid situation again for our comedic benefit
It is a tribute to director Beeban Kidron that, while it seems inevitable that things will turn out just like you expect, the pacing and energy keep you interested. Jones is a predictable mess, but a sweetly familiar kind of mess, and her honest nature works best for the audience when she reveals it around that classic sort of “British snob” character. Darcy is definitely not that typical snobby Brit, although on the surface he seems quite like one. Most of the time, in fact, he turns out to be the absolute perfect man who says just the right thing at the right time. Now, that must be nice.
Alas, it is not enough, and trouble blooms for our pleasantly plump heroine in the form of her ex-boss, the sleazy (and very funny) Daniel Cleaver, played by Hugh Grant.
In my recent review of “Wimbledon,” a slightly better British romantic comedy starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, I stated that Hugh Grant, and the British in general, seem to have a corner on the market when it comes to making romantic comedies that don’t “cheese you out” too much. (The phrase “cheese you out” sounds vaguely British and, I fear, completely ill-advised.) “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” only reinforces my point. Grant is very funny in that catty, smarmy way. Every time he appears in the movie, it gets a little jolt in the arm. And Firth gives Darcy a warmth and humor that he desperately needs. In fact, their one scene together is one of the film’s funniest. And Zellweger, while noticeably not British, brings some of her “aw-shucks” Southern-ness to the Ms. Jones‚ British nature.
Somewhere around the middle of the picture, Bridget ends up in a prison in Thailand. As Graham Chapman from Monty Python famously said, “This is a very silly scene, and I’m not having any more of it.” Bridget wins over the beaten-down women and prostitutes of Bangkok with her cutesy charm and Madonna obsession, and I couldn’t help but realize that I had finally been officially cheesed out.
(Although it did remind me of the scene in that most brilliant of absurd comedies, “Strange Brew,” where Bob and Doug MacKenzie enrapture their hardcore criminal cellmates with stories about the $5 million they got stashed in their hideout. When he’s offered a smoke by a sheepish gorilla of a man, Doug refuses. “No way, eh. We want our lungs to be pink when they fry us.” Beauty of a line.)
The detour to the Thai prison aside, “Bridget Jones:The Edge of Reason” is an enjoyable flick. It jumps through all the hoops it needs to for conflict and comedy, however sometimes at the expense of Bridget’s believable motivations. It is not quite as quirky or guilt-free as the first one, but it’s way funnier than “50 First Dates.”