Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (United Kingdom/United States, 2004)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Bridget Jones' Diary was an unexpected delight: a witty, enjoyable trifle that touched the heart while tickling the funny bone. Sadly, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason isn't anywhere close to being that good. This has the feel of a movie that exists exclusively because its predecessor was a financial success. On those rare occasions when The Edge of Reason isn't regurgitating material from Bridget Jones' Diary, it is taking ill-advised excursions into unfunny slapstick and sappy melodrama. Bridget Jones in a Thai prison? Who thought up that bit of absurdity?

Arguably, the real problem with The Edge of Reason is that Bridget Jones' Diary was designed as a stand-alone. It told the whole story, and ended with a "happily-ever-after" promise. Where can a story go from there? As it turns out, nowhere. In order to get viewers back into theaters for the second installment, the filmmakers are forced to replay large chunks of the first movie. The sense of déjà vu is incomplete, however. While the situations seem familiar, the characters (with one exception) are muted echoes of their previous incarnations. And the comedy is a couple of notches lower. I laughed a lot more during Bridget Jones' Diary than during The Edge of Reason.

"Happily-ever-after" lasts about two months, then Bridget (Renée Zellweger) and Mark (Colin Firth) have an unfortunate falling-out. Jealousy rears its ugly head, and Bridget is sure her perfect Mr. Darcy is messing around with his co-worker, Rebecca (Jacinda Barrett). Plus, when he says he has a very important question to ask her, it turns out not to be the question (something anyone who watches sit-coms will immediately realize). After Bridget dumps Mark, who should be waiting for her but Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant)? It turns out that he wants at least one more night with the girl in the big underpants. So, as in the first, Daniel provides the romantic complications that threaten Bridget and Mark's relationship. But, never fear, "happily-ever-after" returns to save the day. And, this time, Bridget even gets to kiss another woman.

Perhaps it's unfair to call Colin Firth's performance "muted," since one could argue that the whole point of his character is to be dialed down. But the problem is, Firth's Darcy charisma is gone. He was delightful in both the Pride and Prejudice TV mini-series and Bridget Jones' Diary, but the intangible is missing. Meanwhile, aside from superficialities (like the weight issue), Zellweger's Bridget Mark II doesn't bear much resemblance to Mark I. The Bridget of Bridget Jones' Diary seemed like a real person; this one is a caricature. The performance is lazy; this may be the least appealing work Zellweger has exhibited in a major role. And, although she gained back the pounds, she lost the knack of the accent. This time around, it would be charitable to call Zellweger's accent "uneven."

The only time the movie gains a pulse is when Hugh Grant is on screen. Grant reprises the part of Daniel with the perfect mix of charm and oiliness. It's a delightful mix, and Grant plays the role to the hilt. Unfortunately, his screen time is no more than 25 minutes, and the running length of the movie is quadruple that. Character actors like Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones (as Bridget's dad and mum) are short-changed - they have glorified cameos.

The film, helmed by Beeban Kidron (who previously directed the mediocre To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar and the bad Swept from the Sea), goes for obvious slapstick in place of the character-based humor favored by Bridget Jones' Diary director, Sharon Maguire. To be funny, pratfalls have to be perfectly timed. Nothing about The Edge of Reason is perfect, least of all the timing. In addition to a lot of failed physical jokes, the movie does some strange things - like sticking Bridget in a Thai prison for about 10 minutes. This leads to a bizarre rendition of "Like a Virgin." (If the producers had really wanted to go over the top, why not use Broadbent for this? His interpretation of the song, as presented in Moulin Rouge, is, after all, definitive.)

Perhaps my expectations for The Edge of Reason were unreasonably high. Consider the source material, for a start. Bridget Jones' Diary was a loose, modern-day re-interpretation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The Edge of Reason has no such impressive pedigree. Whether the problem lies mainly with Helen Fielding's novel or with the translation to the screen (and, not having read The Edge of Reason, I don't have an opinion), the fact is that the second Bridget Jones movie is inferior. Die-hard fans are advised to wait for the video. Everyone else would be better off pretending that this movie doesn't exist. In the long run, you'll have a higher opinion of everyone involved.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (United Kingdom/United States, 2004)

Run Time: 1:44
U.S. Release Date: 2004-11-19
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1