By popular demand, Bridget Jones is back, and this time she's been pushed to the "Edge of Reason," which must lie somewhere near the Tropic of Cancer. But watching dear, dumb Bridget risk throwing away a perfectly good man in Mark Darcy by making obsessive phone calls, embarking on home pregnancy tests, and fibbing her socks off (no, Mark, she's not an expert skier) is cause to think that she's walked right up to the edge and hurled herself over. By the time Bridge tries mushrooms and ends up detained in a Thai prison on a bogus drug-smuggling charge, "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" has leapt right after her.
At the end of the first installment, Bridget (Renee Zellweger) walked toward eternal bliss with Darcy (Colin Firth). This lazy, charmless sequel picks up six weeks into eternity. She, of course, follows a different calendar: They've been together for "71 ecstatic shags," she enthuses. Now, after less than two months, Bridget is hurt when Darcy tells her parents (Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent) that he has no plans to marry her just yet. In the meantime, her career has taken her from publishing drone to fledgling tabloid journalist. Yet the movie revolves around nothing more than her insecurities about and endless bickering with Darcy. Could he really be cheating with his willowy co-worker (Jacinda Barrett)? And why, Bridget wonders, is this co-worker everywhere she and Darcy go?
Darcy won't leave her because, as his "Pride and Prejudice" namesake demands, chivalry is his true job. When Bridget slips out of bed to dress herself while covered by a sheet to obscure her body from her boyfriend, Darcy tells her he rather likes her "wobbly bits." The three times she barges in on important legal meetings with humiliating proclamations, he's understanding. Despite these and other faux pas, Darcy continues to pledge himself unconditionally.
This fantasy notion of adoration is so insipidly programmed into "The Edge of Reason" that you come to treasure the film's lewd impulses, many of which are courtesy of Hugh Grant, who returns to his role as Daniel Cleaver, the oily sex monster who, in the first movie, did nothing but deceive Bridget about Darcy and for whom we in the audience are extremely grateful. Now Daniel claims to be reformed. He even gets close enough again to Bridget's heart to prompt a second, sillier Daniel-Darcy confrontation that's not much of a fight.
This isn't much of a movie, either, which means it's faithful to the writing in Helen Fielding's two "Bridget Jones" bestsellers. Page after page of Bridget's chummy paranoia and mindless self-sabotage is presented in drain-clogging wads of prose. The movies at least sport a considerable advantage over Fielding. They have Renee Zellweger, who resumes the role of the double-chinned, excruciatingly hapless Londoner.
The masochism she brings to the part is fascinating. Bridget is the sort of infantile lunatic that years in dating hell hath wrought, and Zellweger seems unfazed by the numerous tumbles, splashings, and acts of idiocy that she's required to smile and stammer through. Uma Thurman and Nicole Kidman might have suffered more thoroughly in recent movies, but no one suffers more thanklessly than Zellweger does here.
The sequence in the prison verges on insult, but Zellweger is most resourceful there, remaking innocent Bridget's plight as an occasion for sideways narcissism. She complains about how her boyfriend treats her, inspiring her Thai counterparts to do the same. They spin horrid tales of domestic abuse and being prostituted by their lovers. Realizing that things with her boyfriend aren't so bad, Bridget puffs her swollen cheeks and coughs up a tale of fake abuse. All that's missing is a Rodgers and Hammerstein number; but I guess that cellblock singalong to "Like a Virgin" will have to do.
Yes, in addition to being plastered with slapstick, "The Edge of Reason" is encrusted with pop songs meant to explain its heroine's most profound thoughts: Bridget, how does Mark Darcy make you feel? "Crazy in Love!" And were you to assure Mark of his studliness, what would you say? "Your Love Is King!" And when you guys do it, what's that like? "Nobody Does It Better!"
The director, Beeban Kidron, handles the proceedings with an episodic aimlessness on par with Bridget's. The movie begins with a James Bond riff, in which Bridget sky-dives and lands, aptly, in pig manure, and goes on to concoct a further barrage of unrelated embarrassments and incriminations that would make the average boyfriend run screaming in exasperation. But not Darcy. He's a human rights lawyer, which makes you think his standing by this irritating victim of circumstance is more an occupational hazard than a feat of true love.
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
★★ Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (R)