Suppose, for a moment, that there was this moderately successful romantic comedy based on the relationship entanglements of a somewhat dumpy female protagonist who also narrated the onscreen action. This movie maneuvered our heroine through a series of embarrassing situations and one ill-chosen romance before allowing her to finally hook up with the man we knew was right for her all along. In spite of its unfortunate dependence on the genre’s formula (the main character inevitably chasing down their one true love at the end, a classic ballad soundtrack, and the gripping question of whether the principals will ever realize they’re perfect for each other), the film garnered accolades for its frank dialogue, amusing situations, and realistic characters. In case you haven’t guessed, that film was 2001’s “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” You might even have gone to see it, since decent romantic comedies are a rare find.
Now suppose they made the same movie over again. Welcome to “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.”
Okay, so it’s not totally identical to the original. There are, for one thing, many more exotic locations this time around (Thailand, Rome, and…Surrey). And Bridget Jones is now, apparently, “Extreme” Bridget Jones. Thrill as the overweight Bridget skydives into a sty full of pigs (the irony!), chill as she skis an Alpine slalom course backwards and actually passes two expert skiers (you go, girl!), gape in admiration as she eats magic mushrooms (the colors!), and finally, gasp in horror as Bridget is thrown into a Thai prison. Luckily, it’s one of those friendly Thai prisons, where all her fellow inmates allow Bridget to lead them in a spirited pidgin English rendition of “Like a Virgin.”
I can’t believe I just wrote that, but there it is. Even so, all these cringeworthy attempts to make these characters more interesting might be forgivable if the writers and/or director tried even a little bit to write some actual jokes or flesh the characters out a little more (no fat jokes, please). Everyone in “The Edge of Reason” behaves in exactly the same way as in the original, right down to (almost) dalliances with the wrong person and conflicts based on inane misunderstandings. So much so, in fact, that one begins to suspect that the only TV show screenwriter Adam Davies was allowed to watch as a youngster was “Three’s Company.”
To tell you the truth, I enjoyed “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” It, like the Helen Fielding book, had a sense of wit and originality that helped distance it from the usual Valentine’s Day dreck Hollywood feels the need to foist upon us, but the screenplay to the sequel feels like it was written by some sort of Fielding macro designed for a word processor. Sadly, this would be a less insulting proposition than the likely reality, which is that screenwriter Adam Davies and the other three people who worked on the script simply saw dollar signs and went back to the well one too many times.
And honestly, a computer program would probably write a better film, “The Edge of Reason” plays like a movie version of the comic strip “Cathy.” All it lacks is a scene where Bridget tries on bathing suits, growing more and more exasperated, before finally making some lame joke about body types and why that damned Irving won’t commit. Everyone here is merely slogging through, waiting for their paycheck. The only person in the cast who acts like she cares is Zellweger, and then only because she gained another thirty pounds for the role. And for what? Was somebody going to confuse this with “Raging Bull?” Bridget’s weight might have played much more of a part in the first movie, but here it pops up in a handful of jokes, nothing more. Hugh Grant, looking vaguely embarrassed at his surroundings, plays sleazy Daniel Cleaver again, and provides the movie’s few laughs, while Colin Firth is given the unenviable task of acting like he has anything in common with the paranoid, obtuse woman his girlfriend has become since the last movie.
Audiences enjoyed the original “Bridget Jones” because it hit close to home: everyone knew someone possessed of the same self-destructive yet loveable streak as Bridget But the sequel has about as much emotional depth as a sitcom, only without even the latter’s meager laughs. If your only social options this weekend involve sitting through “The Edge of Reason,” I’d recommend you stay home and wash your hair instead.
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