Jane Austen-philes may get a larf out of Bridget Jones's Diary, the new film "based on" Helen Fielding's hit novel. The film is helmed by Sharon Maguire, who modelled one of Fielding's FOBs (friends of Bridget), but the real story is, of course, Renee Zellweger, the Texan who dared to play a Brit. Everyone can relax: Zellweger's Bridget is cute, funny, and British enough in dialect and demeanor.
The problem is that while Bridget is endearing, she is so only against our better instincts. While Bridget is often called "clever," this quality is hardly in evidence in the film, which goes out of its way to paint Bridget as not simply foolish or loopy, but flat-out stupid. Few people are "smart" when it comes to love, but in her professional life, Bridget is like Inspector Clouseau, with fewer results. Her few professional coups are handed to her despite her admitted ignorance. The film has many other "conveniences," like the friends (yes, including the gay one) who are great or terrible, depending on the plot requirement.
Despite these offenses, Bridget Jones hopes to smile, giggle, and shrug audiences into complacency. The screenplay, co-written by Andrew Davies, Richard Curtis, and Fielding, is bouncy enough. Curtis, along with Hugh Grant, has made a cottage industry of witty, fluffy Anglo-American romantic comedies (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill), each more garish than the last. If you can cut past the sensational grasping for jokes involving sex and violence, you'll find bad fashion and bad cooking jokes. If you can get past those, it's all downhill from the touching opening to the tidy Hollywood ending.