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Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

(2004) * 1/2 R
108 min. Universal Pictures. Director: Beeban Kidron. Cast: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Jacinda Barrett, Jim Broadbent.

The poster for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason--the sequel to 2001's Bridget Jones' Diary--labels the men in the life of Renée Zellweger's Bridget. Colin Firth's strait-laced Mark Darcy is a "Big Lawyer." Hugh Grant's rakish Daniel Cleaver is a "Big Liar." And, according to the poster art, this spells for a Bridget a "Big Dilemma." Huh? Given the choice between a successful, good-hearted professional and a lying bastard, most modern women I know wouldn't call that a puzzler, and those who would hardly seem deserving of our sympathy.

But here we are again with Bridget Jones, the brainchild of novelist Helen Fielding (this film is based on Fielding's 2001 sequel novel of the same name). The sequel picks up where the original left off, with Bridget happily in the embrace of Darcy. Darcy does seem to have a poker up his nether regions, and he's the jealous type, but his failings are moderate compared to his handsome devotion to Bridget. Because romantic comedies are in the business of generating strife, Bridget has to screw it all up with pointless self-destruction. This allows the return of Grant's Cleaver, whose relatively zingy dialogue betrays two things: that he's the only character (cartoony though he is) that the writing staff enjoyed penning and that Grant is an underrated comic actor.

Though I didn't want to believe it was possible, director Beeban Kidron (having taken the reins from Diary director Sharon Maguire) has made Jones even more ridiculous, which might be alright if she weren't treated as entirely senseless. Lucille Ball's TV persona was reckless, for example, but she always had a believable motivation. When Bridget lies to her boyfriend about being an experienced skier, one wonders why. If Bridget were too prideful, that would make sense, but Bridget has no pride. Were Bridget remotely real, she would relish some quality time being taught to ski by her beloved boyfriend, but the film's four screenwriters just want her to pratslide down the mountain. In another scene, Jones forgets to pull the ripcord on her parachute as she plummets to the earth; afterward, she bubbles, "Honestly, you forget one tiny detail and everyone treats you like an idiot." To paraphrase Metallica, she's some kind of monster.

Kidron pumps the film to bursting with 28 popular songs, garish product placement for a leading soda, women who curse like sailors, and cameos by the original film's supporting cast (Oscar winner Jim Broadbent turns up long enough to say, "I wish I was dead"). In the pursuit of cheap laughs, this supposedly relatable comedy veers consistently into the bizarre or even absurd (Bridget's phone chirps, "You have absolutely no messages. Not a single one. Not even your mother." Early on, Zellweger and Firth participate in a Sound of Music parody which, remarkably, has nothing to do with the magic mushroom omelette Bridget consumes in a later scene. And then there's the Thai prison sequence (a staple of any good romantic comedy), in which Bridget—pronounced, aptly, "Be-shit" by her cell mates—befriends a gaggle of apparent prostitutes, staging a song-and-dance show out of "Like a Virgin" and handing out parting gifts (copies of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, bras, and chocolate bars. Call the neighbors! Here's a romantic comedy to which all women can relate! Especially those women from Venus I've heard so much about.

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