Films like Bridget Jones’s Baby aren’t supposed to exist anymore. A thoroughly traditional rom-com with an “outmoded vision of femine success,” a central love triangle perpetuated largely through miscommunication and a zany final act lifting its gags out of French farce? On top of that, it’s being distributed by a major studio (Universal)? Oh, no no no. No one makes that kind of movie anymore. The traditional rom-com was officially declared dead in 2013. That’s just common knowledge, right? The days of the Meg Ryan-Julia Roberts-Reese Witherspoon-Kate Hudson rom-coms are long since behind us. Any new rom-com must be 100% post-modern, either completely committed to mumblecore naturalism or exclusively populated with hipster-ish types given to self-destructive tendencies (e.g., Sleeping With Other People, Trainwreck) which gradually carry the comedy over into straight-up drama.
In short, the traditional rom-com is dead, and we’re all the better for it…apparently.
Yet here’s Bridget Jones’s Baby, re-teaming the original film’s director, Sharon Maguire, with Renee Zelwegger and Colin Firth and the various actors who play Jones’s friends and family (hello, Jim Broadbent). Gone is Hugh Grant as the dastardly Daniel Cleaver, whose absence is explained early on in one of the film’s best gags. Stepping in his place as the new third rung of the inevitable triangle is Patrick Dempsey as an annoyingly handsome (seriously, is there any angle that doesn’t love this man?) billionaire American who someone made his fortune off of a glorified version of Match.com. Also joining the cast is Sarah Solemani as Bridget’s thirtysomething bestie and co-worker at a TV news station where Solemani is an on-air host and Jones her segment producer.
The set-up: At 42, Bridget is still alone, childless and sadly lacking in the male companion department. Her relationship with Mr. Darcy fell apart since last we saw them in 2004’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. However, Bridget is tired of drinking wine and singing along to “All By Myself.” Instead, she’s ready to have fun again, dance to “Jump Around,” while, of course, drinking wine. Quick note: It’s not the alcohol part she’s tired of because it just wouldn’t be Bridget without a liberal amount of alcohol; it’s the feeling sad because she’s alone part. When all of her friends bail on her latest birthday celebration mostly because they all have families now,Bridget and her new bestie….
Ah, screw it. You’ve probably seen the trailer, right? If not, here it is:
Bridget has a one-night stand with the gorgeous American, and then re-connects with Mr. Darcy for a one-nigh stand a week later. Soon enough, Bridget learns she’s pregnant, but has no idea who the father is. Hilarity ensues.
That’s the entire premise of the film which makes it rather surprising that we don’t actually reach this baby daddy drama until just shy of an hour into the story. In fact, there’s even a prolonged stretch where neither Mr. Darcy nor the handsome American is aware of each other, each one having been told by Bridget they are in fact the father. Again, hilarity ensues.
I’ve used that “hilarity ensues” phrase twice now, which might have come off as derogatory, but it’s really just my best way of summing up this film. It broadly recalls any number of old-fashioned rom-coms, most of which were sold as “here’s the premise” followed by “and then a lot of funny shit happens, mapped out according to an overly familiar formula,” aka “hilarity ensues.” The main difference here is the plot hinges on a baby instead of romance, and everyone in the central triangle is a bit older than they would be in a normal rom-com.
Most of the hilarity in Baby, though, is perfectly in keeping with the prior two Bridget Jones films. Lots of Bridget falling down face first in life, sometimes quite literally, such as during her meet-cute with Dempsey and his billion dollar smile. More than a couple of moments where her love life and professional life collide. And an ample supply of cheeky voice-over lifted from Jones’s diary, which we see she now writes out via touch screen tablet instead of boring old keyboard or pen and paper. So, you know, yay for 2016.
All the while, you might be distracted from the film’s supposed hilarity by creeping unpleasant thoughts, such as whether or not you should actually find the whole thing offensive, which is certainly the stance KPCC’s two female film critics took. Is the film somehow suggesting Bridget’s life is empty and meaningless without a man or child in her life? Furthermore, what’s wrong with Bridget raising the child on her own (to be fair, the film does flirt with this idea)? Even furthermore, will the script be brave and have Bridget end up with the man she loves even if he’s not the father? Or will it go the most conservative route possible and have the man she loves and the father of her child be one in the same?
Huh. Yeah, man. Lots of things to unpack there. But did you see that part in the trailer where both guys have to carry her to the hospital because she’s so heavy what with being pregnant and all? That’s funny, right?
Your answer to that question probably dictates if you’ll like this movie. If you think that gag is either offensive or outdated then this isn’t the film for you; if you think that sounds fairly hilarious and couldn’t give a shit less about the gender politics at play then Bridget Jones’s Baby is more than worth your time. It certainly elicited more laughs at my local cinema than any film I’ve seen this year, except for maybe Bad Moms.