Title: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Play time: 1h 48min
Director: Beeban Kidron
Screenwriters: Andrew Davies
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant
Bridget Jones herself is still the sheepish, charming, ever-so-slightly-overweight heroine we know and love; it’s the movie around her that’s changed. Bridget Jones’ Diary, the adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, met with critical acclaim three years ago, and for good reason — it was sublime, real despite its quirks, and thoroughly hilarious. It treated its characters with respect, and when they kissed, or fought, or cried, it mattered. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, which replaces director Sharon Maguire with Beeban Kidron (Swept from the Sea), does a tolerable job of maintaining the laugh quotient, but most everything else goes down the drain to varying degrees.
The plot of the first film was fanciful, but here, Bridget is no longer placed in circumstances of any truth whatsoever. Instead, the screenplay, by Fielding herself and three co-writers, opts for gimmicks and tricks, piling on increasingly improbable humiliations. It is no longer enough for her to serve her friends neon-blue soup; she must now slalom down a double-black-diamond ski slope, get drugged up on the beach, and lead a group of inmates in a Thai women’s prison in a Madonna song-and-dance number.
I must emphasize this last point, as it is some sort of bizarre nadir in English-language comedy. Or maybe it’s not strange enough: I’ll usually go for anything that’s completely non sequitur and inexplicable, but I guess this one didn’t go far enough in that direction. It’s supposed to be character development, but its shallowness and cultural insensitivity just leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. I can’t say I was offended by it, as it is essentially impossible to offend me, but I recoiled in almost-horror. Why? Why?
All of this makes it rather difficult to convey that Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is actually pretty good: fleet, entertaining, and masterful in ways that do not necessarily involve screenwriting. It goes for many more cheap laughs than its predecessor, but it gets them pretty consistently and a few instances result in big, hearty belly laughs of surrender. “I would like a pregnancy test, please,” doesn’t sound like a showstopper, but wait till you see the context they come up with for it here.
The acting is another highlight. Hugh Grant has lately revealed a remarkable range and versatility even as he continues to be typecast; his reprise of his sleazy Daniel Cleaver role from the first film is just perfect. I still maintain that Colin Firth is a dullard despite his heartthrob status, and anyway he has a pretty thankless role here, but his grandiose fight scene with Grant is for all time. And Zellweger, the star of the show, is perhaps a bit too pouty and “cute” to begin with, but finds her bearings before long and manages to establish a compelling character despite the lack of support from the script.
There is definitely a formula to the Bridget Jones franchise, especially its humor, which is always of the same strain. It has not yet begun to annoy me, but I can see the glimmer of irritation coming around the corner. The Edge of Reason is a decent little film, but the novelty is gone, as is the unexpected depth of the first film, which was a character piece masquerading as a romantic comedy. This one is just barely above par, which I suppose is good enough.