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Bridget Jones's Baby

(2016) ** 1/2 R
122 min. Universal Pictures. Director: Sharon Maguire. Cast: Renee Zellweger, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Emma Thompson.

/content/films/4970/1.jpgBridget Jones is back, baby, and she’s having a baby in the watchably silly Bridget Jones’s Baby. Author Helen Fielding’s beloved flibbertigibbet remains a struggling single gal in this third film (which, unlike the previous films, is not based on a corresponding novel), but pregnancy provides the twist and the conflict for Bridget’s latest love triangle.

The film opens with Renée Zellweger’s Bridget lonely-bemoaning her 43rd birthday to the tune of “All by Myself.” But sunny Bridget is irrepressible, so within seconds she’s lip-syncing “Jump Around” and jumping up and down on her bed. That just about sets the tone: she’s either endearing or annoying; you’re either with her or against her. Obviously plenty are with her, to the tune of about $545 million box office dollars so far. Bridget’s now working as the producer of TV’s unconvincingly named “Hard News,” where changes at the top mean a shift to millennial hipster-ism—and, well, soft news—that could make Bridget seem like a dinosaur at only 43.

That’s the kind of hysterical crisis typical of a Bridget Jones movie, populated as they are by broad archetypes and silly, unrealistic situations. Most of those, of course, affect our hero’s personal life, where she still hasn’t found “the chisel-jawed love of [her] life.” At a music festival, she meets (by pratfalling into mud, natch) a strong candidate: Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), the billionaire CEO of matchmaking website Qwantify, with its patented “algorithm for love.” Bridget hooks up with him in his yurt.

Shortly thereafter, Bridget attends a party where she runs into old flame Mark Darcy (Colin Firth, still expertly unnerved by everything). After a spot of tongue-tied banter, they, too, dally, and before you know it, Bridget’s preggers. She’s learned her lesson about using expired vegan “dolphin condoms,” but who’s the dad? Though her first wacky instinct is to collect DNA samples in secret, her father (Jim Broadbent) has better advice: “Just tell the truth, Bridget.” And so Darcy and Qwant become romantic rivals and competitive potential fathers-to-be as the due date hurtles ever closer.

There are subplots involving Bridget’s socially conservative mum (Gemma Jones) running for parish council and Darcy advocating for Pussy Riot-esque dissidents, but mostly the focus rests squarely on the issues raised in Bridget’s narration. “Oh Christ! Too many dilemmas to ponder,” she frets. After Hugh Grant took a pass on the script, Academy Award-winning screenwriter and actress Emma Thompson joined up as a script doctor (credited alongside Fielding and Dan Mazer) and Bridget’s grumpy obstetrician.

The bumpy production went through several screenwriters and directors, but Bridget Jones’s Diary director Sharon Maguire was ultimately reinstalled to right the ship, and indeed this one’s liable to be another crowd pleaser for the crowd that finds all the cartoony humor and sexual activity uproarious and outrageous. As artless as it can be—and as thuddingly predictable about the baby’s parentage and whom Bridget will end up with—even grumps will admit to scattered amusing bits (a bit of prime slapstick with a revolving door, for instance) and the likeability of Zellweger and Firth.

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