Bridget Jones is a goddess. At least she was in 2001, when Texas-born Renée Zellweger introduced author Helen Fielding's weight-obsessed, love-starved, accident-prone British singleton to the screen in Bridget Jones' Diary. Zellweger deservedly nabbed an Oscar nomination as Best Actress; award talk evaporated, however, for the 2004 sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. The actress was back juggling her affections for snobbish barrister Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and her caddish boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). But the follow-up played like it'd been attacked by a charisma-killing virus. And so for a dozen years, Bridget was left abandoned and unmourned.
Now she's back in Bridget Jones's Baby, which sounds godawful in title and concept — but which in execution is a fizzy delight. Sharon Maguire, who directed Diary and then deserted the franchise, is back to right the sinking ship, with help from a sassy script by Fielding, Dan Mazer, and Emma Thompson. Yes, that Emma Thompson, who contributes a hilarious cameo. And Bridget has come into her own: She's a TV news producer now, still single, still given to pratfalls, still unlucky at love. A better-than-ever Zellweger plays her with a lovely comic lift laced with glimmers of hard-won maturity. Bridget is good at her job, less diet conscious, and ready to take on the challenges of turning 43. Her personal lip-synch battle to "All By Myself" has given way to a bed-bouncing "Jump Around."
And jump around Bridget does. She has a one-night stand with the married-but-soon-to-be-not Mr. Darcy (Firth remains an uppity pleasure in the role). And there's another man, one who's not Cleaver; Grant opted out and the movie teases him mightily for it. The new guy is American Internet billionaire Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey in full McDreamy mode) who's built a computer app to Qwantify love (yes, there are some groaners here). Bridget has slept with both men within days of each other, using the same dodgy vegan condoms. Warning: The sight of middle-agers bonking may cause teen tremors. But the fact is Bridget is pregnant. Who's the father? Don't let it worry you. Zellweger, Firth and Dempsey make a merry go of it. Better yet, it's Bridget who decides her own fate, pretty revolutionary for rom-com. Sweet.