The original “Bridget Jones’s Diary” was not the kind of film that typically passes for cinematic genius, even in the romantic comedy genre. But it had such a winsome charm, so much sparkling inoffensive wit and such glowing lead performances that it qualified as a spectacular guilty pleasure for millions of “singletons” all across the globe. Who, after all, could watch Hugh Grant and Colin Firth’s street rumble to the soundtrack of “It’s Raining Men” without giggling in girlish delight?
To those who savor cinematic empty calories, the good news is that the sequel, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” has them in droves, practically duplicating the original. The bad news is that the film lacks the kind of narrative cohesion, restraint or respect for the characters necessary to make the little moments of embarrassment and emotion into anything resembling a good movie — guilty pleasure or not.
The film picks up some six weeks after Mark Darcy (Firth) and Bridget (Renee Zellweger) shared their first kiss in the snow at the end of the last movie. Before long, however, cracks in the relationship begin to manifest. Bridget doesn’t fit in at a Law Council party, the two differ on politics and marriage and to top it off, rather predictably, Mark is working late hours with a beautiful, leggy coworker (“Real World: London” survivor Jacinda Barrett). All this conspires far too conveniently to throw a newly single Bridget back into the arms of Daniel Cleaver (Grant), the smarmy, fidelity-challenged ex-boyfriend who’s now her co-worker in Thailand.
Along the way, there are so many moments for Bridget to embarrass herself that they cease to have any comedic effect, and instead of seeming like a witty and lovable neurotic with the world against her, the script transforms her into a borderline freak. Even the movie’s most charming scenes feel a bit overplayed. In particular, a gratuitous fight between Mark and Daniel lifted straight from the original seems a bit too self-conscious to replicate the spark of the first.
The film takes a disastrous turn when Bridget is arrested on drug-trafficking charges and thrown into a Thai prison. Luckily for the plucky heroine, Thai prisons turn out to be remarkably clean and filled with young girls who not only speak excellent English, but love nothing more in the world than to gossip and sing Madonna songs. Eventually Mark comes to her rescue, the aforementioned leggy co-worker is dismissed in a monumental cop-out and the two live happily ever after.
The film’s little moments of wit and sporadic quality scenes are played to full effect by the outstanding cast, which manages to partially overcome disastrously written caricatures. Zellweger, though clearly in danger of a heart attack, is once again funny, sharp and deeply sympathetic reprising her Oscar-nominated role. The returning supporting actors and newcomer Barrett are all flawless as well, but the real credit has to go to Grant and Firth, who once again elevate the movie with charming, nuanced and profoundly funny performances.
Despite all obvious problems, the producers of “Bridget Jones” apparently had such confidence in the film that they pushed its release up a week in order to garner good word of mouth and strong reviews. Well, here’s one from the Daily: “Fans of the original ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ will most likely find this worthwhile sequel most entertaining.”