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Bridget Jones, Back on the Trail Of Happily Ever After

By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 12, 2004; Page C01

Yes, it is v. funny. It's just not v. clever. And clever is what made the original Bridget Jones movie such a hoot: The smarty moments (remember the Salman Rushdie cameo?), the sly sight gags (control-top granny panties or sexy knickers?) and the scathing observations on the singleton life. Based on the madcap bestseller, "Bridget Jones's Diary" introduced plumpish Bridget, who chronicles her life in the breathless shorthand of a woman who has no time for a long chat with her bedtime journal: Cigs 1. Pounds lost: 3. V. good.

Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is still plump, but her life has changed quite a bit since we last saw her. As "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" opens, we find our heroine happily, goofily, obnoxiously in love and settled down with the somewhat stodgy Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Carrying on from this apt Jane Austen reference: If we are to believe the fairy tales that we've been force-fed since we were 3, life is supposedly better after you get the guy and ride off into the whatever. But getting the guy is never as funny as trying to get the guy. And so the movie sequel, like the book sequel of the same name, doesn't zing like the original.

Renee Zellweger returns as Bridget in "The Edge of Reason." (Laurie Sparham -- Universal, Studio Canal And Miramax)

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Instead of wit, we're served up Lucille Ball slapstick, which would work if Miz Ball were slapping it to us. Zellweger's antics feel more forced. Sure, there are giggles aplenty, like the sight of Zellweger, the real-life waif who's packed on the pounds in the name of art, parachuting out of a plane, screeching in fear and landing in a pile of, um, pig excrement. But, as her landing suggests, instead of being in on the joke, Bridget has become the joke.

Fortunately for the sake of comedy, with Bridget, happily ever after doesn't rule out living neurotically ever after. She can't stop over-analyzing the nooks and crannies of her relationship, thanks to the "helpful" input of her "dating war command" trio of friends, ones who read too many self-help books and say things like, "Do you want to get married and have babies before you're barren?" to preface their well-meaning yet questionable advice.

Eventually, jealousy whips Bridget into a froth, and after a fairly disastrous high-stakes dinner for Mark's work and a really disastrous skiing holiday -- two events where Mark's foxy co-worker (Jacinda Barrett) shows up a little too often -- Bridget has analyzed herself out of a relationship. (Still, though he's supposed to be such a catch, by our sights Mark is a stuck-up sod.)

Anyway, Mark exits stage right, and Bridget is off to Thailand, where she's reconnected with uber-cad Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). Of course, Daniel is the boy that your mama warned you about, and of course he is the one for whom Bridget feels percolating chemistry.

We get to see Mark and Daniel throw punches over Bridget once again; we get to see Bridget get accidentally stoned on mushrooms and end up in a Thai jail; and, quite naturally, we get to see that all's well that ends well. (We also get to see some rather unfortunate and unfunny Asian stereotypes.) And for Bridget, it does end well: "I truly believe that happiness is possible," she says, "even when you're 33 and have a bottom the size of two bowling balls."

It's a pleasing enough romp, and if you're starved for romantic comedy (where have they all gone?) this will ease your hunger pangs. For now.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (108 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for language and some sexual content.

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