In this sequel to the successful 2001 single-girl-in-the-city comedy "Bridget Jones's Diary", more is less. "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" begins by repeating many gags from the previous film. Only now they feel lame and routine. Then, in the strain to explore new territory, the film pushes into areas that that don't fit comfortably into the lightly comic world of Bridget Jones.
Reteaming Renee Zellweger with her two leading men from the previous film, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, may hamper dramatic developments but makes boxoffice sense. Despite its R rating, "Diary" grossed $71.5 million domestically and $208.5 million overseas. The new film should equal those figures though production costs have clearly gone up with side trips to Rome, the Austrian Alps and Thailand.
As with the first film, this one is based on a novel by Helen Fielding organized as a diary by Bridget, a London-based "singleton" with an often disastrous social life and an unfortunate capacity for alcohol, tobacco and calories. The fundamental flaw in Fielding's follow-up (written along with Andrew Davis, Richard Curtis and Adam Brooks) is its denial of the character arc of the first novel and movie, namely that Bridget, a born self-loather, learns to accept herself "as I am." In so doing, she actually wins a dishy guy, human rights lawyer Mark Darcy (Firth), while shedding the shallow sexual opportunist Daniel Cleaver (Grant).
As the new movie opens, after six weeks with her Mr. Wonderful, Bridget falls back on her self-doubts and suspicions so that the movie can rewind the original plot. Indeed 50 laborious minutes are spent trying to drive a wedge between two people who clearly understand and adore one another. Much of that conflict centers on class divisions never raised in the previous film. The film even hints at a passive/aggressive streak in Bridget that casts its heroine in an awkward, negative light. In truth, she has become a bit of a pill and all the cute clumsiness and social shortcomings from the original now play more like psychotic behavior.
Anyway, at the 50-minute mark, they do break up -- or at least not speak for several weeks. By then Bridget, now a TV journalist, you may recall, is off on assignment to Thailand paired with bad boyfriend Daniel. She naturally flirts with the notion of slipping back into an easy shag with her old flame but reclaims her sanity in the nick of time and heads for the Bangkok airport.
Here the story takes a serious wrong turn. Through plot contrivances, Bridget gets bused for drug possession just as she boards the plane and is thrown into a filthy prison full of female hookers and junkies. She languishes there for days, yet the movie refuses to relax its grip on frothy comedy. At the point Bridget is teaching the jailhouse to perform Madonna's "Like a Virgin", the movie is in serious need of a reality check. The conclusion back in London is pure formula with Firth and Grant even reprising their sloppy fist fight from the first movie to sharply diminished effect.
Zellweger, again inflicting her body with an alarming weight gain, remasters both a British accent and the adroit physical comedy that sees her negotiate a swank party in a skintight gold lame dress and flounder amusingly on Alpine ski slopes. Firth and Grant continue to be good company, though Firth's character is too impossibly good while Grant's Bad Boy could use a bit of redemption. Would he really walk away from the arrest of his ex-lover by Thai police without a flicker of concern?
Beeban Kidron, taking up the directorial reigns from Sharon Maguire, never finds a way to balance the more serious aspects with the comic but otherwise gives the actors the space to perform roles they have down to a T. That includes Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones as Bridget's parents, even though they feel much more peripheral this time. Tech credits are fine despite shaky forays into CGI.
BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON
Universal Pictures, StudioCanal & Miramax Films present a Working Title production
Director: Beeban Kidron
Writers: Andrew Davis, Helen Fielding, Richard Curtis, Adam Brooks
Based on the novel by: Helen Fielding
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jonathan Cavendish
Executive producers: Debra Haywood, Liza Chasin
Director of photography: Adrian Biddle
Production designer: Gemma Jackson
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Costumes: Jany Temime
Editor: Greg Hayden
Bridget Jones: Renee Zellweger
Daniel: Hugh Grant
Mark: Colin Firth
Dad: Jim Broadbent
Mum: Gemma Jones
Rebecca: Jacinda Barrett
Shazzer: Sally Phillips
Jude: Shirley Henderson
MPAA rating R
Running time -- 107 minutes
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