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Bridget's back at last with fun, laughs, tears... and a baby

Bridget Jones's Baby (15, 123 mins)

Published 16/09/2016

Mud lark: Jack (Dempsey) rescues Bridget (Zellwegger)
Mud lark: Jack (Dempsey) rescues Bridget (Zellwegger)
Renee as the lovable Bridget

As creative pregnancies go, Bridget Jones's Baby has taken longer than most to come full-term. It's been 12 years since Renee Zellweger adopted a near-flawless English accent to portray the hapless singleton in Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason.

In the interim, writer Helen Fielding has delivered a third novel, Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy, but it's her series of newspaper columns from more than a decade ago that fertilizes this haphazard, yet joyful stumble into motherhood.

The third film throws a warm, affectionate and frequently hilarious baby shower for characters we've grown to love and proves that Bridget may have (finally) dieted down to her target dress size, but she's no closer to achieving her Happy Ever After.

Director Sharon Maguire, who helmed Bridget Jones's Diary, and her clucky trio of screenwriters, which includes co-star Emma Thompson, are in a celebratory mood.

They bookmark the heroine's trials and vacillations with nostalgic flashbacks to earlier films reminding us of Bridget's infuriating obsessions and her fitful romantic dalliances with Colin Firth and Hugh Grant's paramours.

"I'm trying not to think I'm past my sexual sell-by date," laments Bridget, as she careens at high speed towards her 43rd birthday without a wedding ring on her finger.

She works as a producer at Hard News alongside old boss Richard Finch (Neil Pearson) and newscaster pal Miranda (Sarah Solemani), who suggests a hedonistic girls-only weekend at a music festival.

The gal pals descend on a muddy field, which Miranda pithily describes as "Sodom and Gomorrah... with tofu".

A late-night blunder into the wrong yurt leads to a spontaneous coupling with a handsome American love guru called Jack Quant (Patrick Dempsey).

A few days later, Bridget is powerless to resist the silky charms of old flame Mark Darcy (Firth), who is separating from his wife.

A pregnancy test at work confirms that Bridget is about to gain weight. If only she knew who was the father...

Bridget Jones's Baby opens with a blast of the heroine's preferred anthem of self-pity - All By Myself - before a choice expletive kicks her out of a fug and the plot into first gear.

Zellweger slips back into the title role with ease, oozing lovability, fragility and regret as she wonders how to broach the subject of paternity with her two suitors.

Dempsey and Firth are attractive rivals for Bridget's brittle affections and the script keeps us guessing as long as possible about the course of true love.

Set-pieces including a tussle with a revolving door are genuinely hysterical and Thompson nabs several of the best lines as Bridget's despairing obstetrician, including a zinging one-liner that advises expectant fathers against witnessing the miracle of birth firsthand.

Ignorance, like Maguire's rumbustious film, is bliss.

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph

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