In the dictionary, under the heading of Missed Opportunities and Tragic Disappointments, let us file this: In the new Bridget Jones movie, bumbling journalist Bridget's hilariously star-crossed interview with Colin Firth, a comic high point in the book "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," does not take place.
Perhaps this is because Colin Firth is already in the movie, playing Bridget's boyfriend Mark Darcy, a "total sex god and human-rights lawyer." Perhaps it's because the filmmakers couldn't get the rights to reference the legendary scene in "Pride and Prejudice," when Firth's shirt gets all wet and clingy (which Bridget and her friends watch repeatedly in the book version). Or perhaps it was just easier not to bother.
And that's the problem with the new movie — it's got the dreaded Sequel Disease, otherwise known as We've Already Got the Audience, So Why Bother? Directed by Beeban Kidron and written by a quartet of screenwriters (including Helen Fielding, whose novels inspired the two movies), "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" has some very funny moments, but there's a flatness in the writing, a slapdash feel to the directing and an over-reliance on what worked the first time.
Renée Zellweger, once again famously portraying a woman of regular size, returns as not-quite-so-singleton Bridget. The marvelously determined chipperness and scones-and-cream accent that won Zellweger an Oscar nomination for the first film return; new this time is an emphasis on physical comedy that sometimes works (Bridget has a funny, slightly knock-kneed march) and sometimes doesn't. Like the character Ben Stiller often plays in his movies, Bridget here exists to be humiliated; an opening scene in which she is dropped (from a botched skydive) into an excrement-filled pen of grunting pigs seems unnecessarily cruel, and not especially funny.
Armed with a new diary, Bridget sallies forth into a new year (with the customary first stop at her mum's gloriously dreadful annual Turkey Curry Buffet). The catch this time around is that she has a man (she's "a love pariah no more," in her words) but worries about how to keep him: He's a catch, and she feels like the sort who stumbled into the VIP room by mistake. And Bridget's ex-boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant, in diabolical-cad mode) is back, wondering if she might want to patch things up. "You make me laugh," he tells her, nostalgically. "At you, of course, not with you."
The plot exists as a framework for a series of slapsticky set pieces: Bridget spies on Mark, Bridget skis, Bridget wears scary underwear, Bridget goes to Thailand and gets arrested. It's all so predictable that the woman behind me at the screening announced virtually every plot twist aloud before we got to it, and accurately, too. (Not that her accuracy excuses such disgraceful behavior. Keep it to yourself next time, madam.)
It's a tribute to the actors that the movie works as well as it does. Firth and Grant, as Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong, are both wonderfully relaxed, and Zellweger, her flushed-pink face smiling sweetly over a series of terrible outfits, has Bridget's comic rhythms down pat. Caught snooping outside Mark's town house (expecting to catch him with the elegantly slinky Rebecca-from-the-office), Bridget, grubby and bruised from falling off a hedge, marches into the house to find ... a group of lawyers having a business meeting. "Right," she says, nodding, immediately switching into jovial mode in the hope that nobody will notice that she's got leaves in her hair. "Ah. Excellent graph." We laugh — with her, not at her, and heartily.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org