UNIVERSAL/Color/1.85/Dolby Digital, DTS & SDDS/108 Mins./Rated R

Cast: Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jacinda Barrett, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, James Callis, Shirley Henderson, Sally Phillips, Neil Pearson, Jessica Stevenson, Paul Nicholls, Celia Imre.
Credits: Directed by Beeban Kidron. Screenplay by Andrew Davies, Helen Fielding, Richard Curtis, Adam Brooks, based on the novel by Fielding. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jonathan Cavandish. Director of photography: Adrian Biddle. Production designer: Gemma Jackson. Edited by Greg Hayden. Music by Harry Gregson-Williams. Costume designer: Jany Temime. Executive producers: Debra Hayward, Liza Chasin. A Universal Pictures, Studio Canal and Miramax Films presentation of a Working Title production, in association with Little Bird.

At the end of the 2001 hit Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget (Renée Zellweger), everyone's favorite spunky, saucy, pudgy Brit, had spurned the advances of the satyr-like Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and was last seen leaping (literally) into the arms of Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), her ever-loyal suitor and one true love. Snowflakes swirled, music swelled, and we all went home with a grand, “happy ending” glow about us.

Bridget is still glowing at the beginning of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, especially as she gazes upon her sleeping lover, reveling in her good fortune. They've been together for six weeks already—my, how time creeps—and Bridget, who still frets about her weight (as she should, for there seems to be more of her now than six weeks before) reflects that Darcy, bless him, “loves me just the way I am.” In truth, he does.

It's not long, however, before the two encounter a few problems of a Mars/Venus nature. There's no competition in the career area, for Bridget continues to be a successful TV news reporter, getting all the fat (pardon the pun) feature assignments (demonstrating the thrill of sky-diving, for example, in a stunt that ends badly when she lands in a pig sty), while Darcy successfully pursues his legal practice, meeting frequently with clients who manage to maintain their cool whenever Bridget bursts into their meetings babbling about whatever the hell is on her mind at the moment. (Like who is that gorgeous and leggy young woman pretending to be Darcy's associate?) The trouble, such as it is, originates entirely in Bridget's pudgy-cheeked little head. Darcy's distinguished demeanor is seldom ruffled, however, until Bridget really makes a fool of herself at a gala legal function, and then later, at home, argues with him about where their son, if there were to be one, would go to school. Not at Eaton, she says snottily, “where they'd stick a poker up his ass that he could never remove.” Darcy, an Eaton lad, finally takes offense. Their break-up is very stiff-upper-lip.

The machinations it takes to get Bridget and Darcy together again (do we doubt it for a moment?) involve location shoots in Switzerland (a mini ski break during which Bridget hones her klutziness) and in Thailand, where Bridget goes on assignment with the lecherous Daniel. He's now a TV personality, the host of a travel show called “Smooth Guides.” After she's duped into getting stoned on magic mushrooms, Daniel finds her wandering in the Thai surf and brings her back to his room for the obligatory seduction. Will she or won't she? Let's just say Bridget tries for a hasty exit from the country, but winds up in the women's quarter of a local prison, accused of drug smuggling. Not to fret, for plucky Bridg has a lesson to learn, and a Thai prison is just the place to learn it—after she runs through a chorus of “Material Girl” with her fellow inmates. (Huh?) Instead of serving her 15 years, Bridget is rescued within the week by a certain barrister with whom she once consorted in London. Not that Darcy's interest in her has been revived; no, he just happened to be in the neighborhood, he tells her, and thought he could help. Sure.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason has one or two bright spots. The script is witty enough in places, although overall it's looser and less linear than the first installment. Grant is sexier than ever and Firth more stalwart (sexy, too) and they get to go at each other again, in a hilarious mano a mano. But something went awry in the way Bridget was reconceived for this sequel. One wonders why Zellweger would allow herself to be humiliated in this way; she looks just awful most of the time, with flat, stringy hair hanging limply around her ample jowls. Also, she often acts like a real pill—one that's hard to swallow. It's as if the director's desired effect was to make us laugh at Bridget, rather than laughing with her. Without empathy, though, there's a big empty space where the heart of this movie should be.

So, hey, Renée, no matter how much money they offer you for another sequel, ditch the Bridg, okay? You're too good for this.