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Featuring a blowzy, winningly inept size-12 heroine, Bridget Jones's Diary is a fetching adaptation of Helen Fielding's runaway bestseller, grittier than Ally McBeal but sweeter than Sex and the City. The normally sylphlike Renée Zellweger (Nurse Betty, Me, Myself and Irene) wolfed pasta to gain poundage to play "singleton" Bridget, a London-based publicist who divides her free time between binge eating in front of the TV, downing Chardonnay with her friends, and updating the diary in which she records her negligible weight fluctuations and romantic misadventures of the year. Things start off badly at Christmas when her mother tries to set her up with seemingly standoffish lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), whom Bridget accidentally overhears dissing her. Instead she embarks on a disastrous liaison with her raffish boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant, infinitely more likeable when he's playing a baddie instead of his patented tongue-tied fops). Eventually, Bridget comes to wonder if she's let her pride prejudice her against the surprisingly attractive Mr. Darcy.
If the plot sounds familiar, that's because Fielding's novel was itself a retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, whose romantic male lead is also named Mr. Darcy. An extra ironic poke in the ribs is added by the casting of Firth, who played Austen's haughty hero in the acclaimed BBC adaptation of Austen's novel. First-time director Sharon Maguire directs with confident comic zest, while Zellweger twinkles charmingly, fearlessly baring her cellulite and pulling off a spot-on English accent. Like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill (both of which were written by this film's coscreenwriter, Richard Curtis), Bridget Jones's stock-in-trade is a very English self-deprecating sense of humour, a mild suspicion of Americans (especially if they're thin and successful), and a subtly expressed analysis of thirtysomething fears about growing up and becoming a "smug married." The whole is, as Bridget would say, v. good. --Leslie Felperin
Bridget Jones - Edge of Reason
Although it's been three years since we last saw Bridget (Renée Zellweger), only a few weeks have passed in her world. She is, as you'll remember, no longer a "singleton," having snagged stuffy but gallant Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) at the end of the 2001 film. Now she's fallen deeply in love and out of her neurotic mind with paranoia: Is Mark cheating on her with that slim, bright young thing from the law office? Will the reappearance of dashing cad Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) further spell the end of her self-confidence when they're shoved off to Thailand together for a TV travel story? If such questions also seem pressing to you, this sequel will be fairly painless, but you shouldn't expect anything fresh. Director Beeban Kidron and her screenwriters--all four of them!--are content to sink matters into slapstick, with chunky Zellweger (who's unflatteringly photographed) the literal butt of all jokes. Though the star still has her charms, and some of Bridget's social gaffes are amusing, the film is mired in low comedy--a sequence in a Thai women's prison is more offensive than outrageous--with only Grant's rakish mischief to pull it out of the swamp. --Steve Wiecking