Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

on November 12, 2004 by Mark Keizer
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When we last saw Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger), she had chosen quiet, steady human rights lawyer Mark (Colin Firth) over caddish sexual conquistador Daniel (Hugh Grant). Unfortunately, we last saw Bridget Jones in 2001, when pop culture interest in the sexual travails of working women had reached its zenith, mainly due to the Fox series "Ally McBeal" and the HBO comedy "Sex and the City." Three years later, with those shows gone and the dating bible "The Rules" reduced to a trivia question, only Bridget is left to carry the torch for sexually-frustrated career gals. Alas, it proves a task too difficult. In "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," director Beeban Kidron and her cadre of writers have almost completely betrayed the character and everything that made her real and resonant. Bridget has gone from a charmingly inept spinster navigating the treacherous waters of work and love to a bit of a clown. Watch Bridget parachute into a pigpen. Watch Bridget slide off a skylight. Watch Bridget ski full-blast into a Swiss pharmacy. Watch Bridget barge into a Very Important Meeting and embarrass Mark (she does this about four times). The only thing we're not watching Bridget do is act like a flesh-and-blood woman. In a film that should be constructed with an eye towards lighter-than-air realism, Bridget is merely a pawn in a wacky adventure that cares more about plot than character and more about laughs than truth.

"Edge of Reason" begins six weeks after the conclusion of the original. Bridget remains smitten with Mark, constantly reminding everyone that her boyfriend is a combination sex god and human rights lawyer. Daniel, now host of a TV travel show, is a distant memory. Bridget and Mark surely like each other, but in an effort to recreate the three-person dynamic of their previous outing, the film goes to great pains to break them up. Therefore, Bridget complains that Mark is "not willing to fight" for her (this after dating only eight weeks) while also bemoaning their class differences.

With Mark out of the picture, fate dangles Daniel in front of Bridget's pudgy face. The pair is sent on assignment to Thailand, an escapade that leads to the film's fatal storytelling mistake: Bridget is thrown into a Thai prison after airport guards find cocaine that was planted in her luggage. Languishing in jail with dozens of prostitutes and junkies, Bridget makes the best of the situation, teaching the female prisoners the lyrics to Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and trading her bra for two cigarettes. Writers and directors get paid a lot of money for what they do, presumably because they know what they're doing. And of all the cinematic avenues available, why Kidron and company decided to throw their heroine into a filthy Thailand prison is really one for the ages. The only redeeming moment in this inexplicable sidetrip is when the other female prisoners talk of how their boyfriends physically and mentally abused them. Bridget, reassessing her relationship with Mark, realizes that her complaints are comparatively petty and she really does love him.

On the laugh meter, "Edge of Reason" is actually funnier than the original. But here, the film is trying to be funny, and the laughs come at the expense of character and heart. Female audiences will laugh, but unlike with "Diary," they'll take nothing from it. Many of the original's funniest moments came from recognition: Bridget represented anyone tumbling through life and deserving of love, if only the game didn't seem constructed to deny us the pleasure. Here, the laughs come from moments of slapstick and lame rehashes of the previous movie's jokes. Once again, Bridget embarrasses herself on national TV with an unfortunate shot of her too-wide behind and, once again, Mark and Daniel duke it out in public. Is that what the filmmakers think Bridget Jones is really about?

Firth and Grant slip comfortably into roles that are hardly a stretch. As for Zellweger, she's trying too hard, presumably to compensate for the story's lack of ground-level humanity. Director Beeban Kidron is no better or worse than "Diary" helmer Sharon Maguire, although Kidron's addition of CGI effects is distracting and not funny. There is one nice shot: As Bridget stares forlornly out her window, the camera pulls back and flies over dozens of London flats, with lovers gracing every terrace, balcony, window and rooftop.

The soundtrack consists of dozens of obvious and chirpy song cues. Sometimes, one obvious and chirpy song cue will fade into another obvious and chirpy song cue in the same scene. It's another emotional shortcut that only highlights the film's failings. The filmmakers really missed an opportunity to build on the Bridget Jones character, ensuring the franchise remained fresh, true and worthy of future installments. With the frenzied failure of "Edge of Reason," the whole "Bridget Jones"/"Sex in the City" moment is officially over. It's a shame, but as a barometer of the thirtysomething female condition, the Bridget Jones character has nothing more to say. Starring Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Directed by Beeban Kidron. Written by Andrew Davis, Helen Fielding, Richard Curtis and Adam Brooks. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated R for language and some sexual content. Running time: 107 min

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