|'Does Sharon Maguire attempt to break the mould or reach new heights? No. Does it matter? Not really'.|
Bridget Jones's Baby answers a question that has thus far remained unanswered, most probably because nobody has thought to ask it before: what is the eponymous spinster able to do that neither Dr. Henry Jones Jr. nor John McClane could successfully manage? The answer (at least the one relevant here) is that she can return to the big screen after more than a decade away and deliver an experience just as satisfying as when we last saw her.
Whilst Bridget Jones's Diary and its first sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, may not have set the bar quite as high as either the Indiana Jones or Die Hard franchises, it's pleasing to report that the third film manages to continue the enjoyable rom-com fare of its predecessors despite a twelve year gap between installments. Returning to direct after skipping The Edge Of Reason, does Sharon Maguire attempt to break the mould or reach new heights? No. Does it matter? Not really.
With Hugh Grant the only notable absentee within the returning cast - Daniel Cleaver's whereabouts are swiftly tackled head on - the rest slip comfortably back into their roles. Most importantly, Renée Zellweger both looks and feels the part of a now middle-aged Bridget: still likeable, still funny, still a ticking timebomb of faux pas; but with some subtle differences to satisfyingly position her at a different stage of her life. It's difficult to make a character who's always been old before his time seem more mature, but Colin Firth on the whole pulls it off by throwing in some pleasing moments of tenderness as Mark Darcy.
As in the previous films, Bridget Jones's Baby is at its best when Zellweger and Firth share the screen; an early moment between Bridget and Mark discussing Psy's "Gangnam Style" is a particular delight. Both the explanation of how the pair separated and their subsequent reacquaintance feel refreshingly underplayed, in that they just happen without a great deal of song-and-dance. It's not quite social realism, but neither are we so rigidly in Curtis-Land as we were a decade or so ago.
The additions to the cast fit well: Patrick Dempsey as Mark's new rival Jack Qwant is fine, importantly never feeling like a Cleaver replacement; and Emma Thompson - pulling double duty with a screenwriting credit - is entertaining as Bridget's forthright obstetrician. The plot surrounding Bridget's pregnancy takes very few steps away from its expected direction, although its conclusion might not be quite what many will be expecting. A first act cameo by Ed Sheeran feels ill-advised and liable to date the film in years to come, but is in the end forgiveable. In fact, even if it largely treads a well-worn path which seldom strays beyond its rom-com comfort zone, Bridget Jones's Baby rarely puts a foot wrong.