[Screen It]

(2016) (Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth) (R)

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Romantic Comedy: A 43-year-old single woman ends up pregnant, but isn't sure if the father is a long-time flame or a new man in her life.
While not entirely happy with how things have played out in her life from a romance standpoint, 43-year-old TV news producer Bridget Jones (RENEE ZELLWEGER) has pretty much accepted her situation. She isn't terribly upset that her ex, Daniel Cleaver (HUGH GRANT), has likely perished in a plane accident where no bodies were recovered, while it's been years since she had contact with the other significant man in her life, Mark Darcy (COLIN FIRTH).

She ends up running into him at Daniel's memorial service and then again at the christening for a friend's baby where she and he have been named godparents of the child. Upon learning he's getting a divorce from his wife, Bridget quickly accepts his invitation for a rendezvous in his hotel room, but sees that as a just a one-night fling, what with their troubled romantic past that never lasted.

She's found she has other options anyway, what with having just had a one-night stand with handsome American Jack Qwant (PATRICK DEMPSEY) while on a getaway with her news anchor friend Miranda (SARAH SOLEMANI). But when she discovers she's pregnant, she realizes she doesn't know who the father is.

In hopes of finding out, she has Miranda interview Jack on their news show, what with him being a billionaire from running an online matchmaking site. the line of improper questions pleases their new boss, Alice Peabody (KATE O'FLYNN), who wants to shake up the old-school way of covering the news. As Bridget continues through her pregnancy -- including repeated trips to see her obstetrician, Dr. Rawling (EMMA THOMPSON) -- she tries to figure out who impregnated her, all while having both men separately believe they're the father.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
It isn't always present or needed, but music has long been an integral part of moviemaking. Most of that involves orchestral (or similar) accompaniments that are used to enhance certain scenes and the emotions that accompany them. Think about your favorite movies and more than likely there's a very memorable score within them.

Of course, soundtracks don't only have to be in that form as songs are often heard as well. Throwing out musicals that naturally have such numbers and other films where the songs are actually heard by the characters in them, many a movie has featured signature songs that serve the same purpose as the scores.

Some filmmakers are masters at using preexisting songs for such uses, including Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. Others, however, use them in ham-fisted and far too obvious ways, such as back when "Who Let the Dogs Out" appeared in most any film featuring canines.

The most recent egregious example of lazy song usage, however, belongs to "Bridget Jones's Baby." Now, it's possible the same occurred in the previous two entries and I simply forgot. But whenever this film wants to drive home a point, emotion or moment that's just occurred, director Sharon Maguire inserts the most obvious song for the job. It's so bad that it sort of becomes a game where you try to guess what song she'll next use as the predictable rom-com plot plays out.

I'm guessing fans of the series -- who enjoyed the reimagining of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" in 2001's "Bridget Jones's Diary" and then the sequel, "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" three years later -- won't mind one bit. And yes, there will be those focusing on star Renee Zellweger's appearance following all of the social media explosion and then news coverage of "did she or didn't she" have plastic surgery in attempts to figure out why she looks so different now that more than a decade has passed.

I'd be more concerned about why a scalpel wasn't taken to the entire project to make it tighter and give it lift. As written by Helen Fielding (based on her columns) and Dan Mazer, with a rewrite by Emma Thompson -- who appears in the film as Bridget's obstetrician -- the flick obviously follows the formula of the first two pics. Namely, that's Bridget talking about her life -- via voice-over narration presumably meant as the verbalization of diary entries -- in the to-be-expected confident-meets-unsure manner in which the character operates.

That includes her love life, something her gal pal and TV news anchor (Sarah Solemani) wants to remedy by taking her out to an event where Bridget ends up sleeping with a stranger (Patrick "McDreamy" Dempsey) who she doesn't yet realize is a dating website guru billionaire. Things become more complicated when her Austen-inspired former flame (Colin Firth) shows up, married but about to be divorced, all of which means a romp between the sheets is in store for them. But as luck or fate would have it, she ends up pregnant by one of them, but doesn't know which, and doesn't have the courage to let each know about the other's fifty-fifty chance of being the baby-daddy.

You might be thinking that Hugh Grant's Daniel Cleaver will then show up to further complicate matters. And that's despite the scribes seemingly having killed him off early on in an unseen plane crash where no bodies were recovered (meaning it's possible he could show up for installment number four, although it's reported he didn't like an early script for this one and thus bailed). He doesn't show, so we're left with a love triangle where the men -- once they learn of the other's bedding of our heroine -- compete for her affections and the rights to be named "dad."

There is a smattering of amusing moments here and there, yet much of this is played far too broadly and goofily for my tastes. I seem to recall enjoying the original film and not having such problems (if they existed, but it's been 15 years since I last saw it, and I can't remember a thing about the sequel), but this one just didn't work for me. It doesn't help that Zellweger and Firth don't really seem to have their hearts in it, and while Dempsey and Thompson seem game for what the plot throws their way, the likes of Solemani and especially Kate O'Flynn play their characters more in tune with a TV sitcom than a movie.

None of which is helped by the overuse and misuse of various popular songs that are as blatant as neon signs at night in terms of getting the film's story, character or emotional points across. Those who don't mind broadly played sitcoms and lack of nuance probably won't mind, and who knows, maybe I was just in the wrong mood the day I sat through all of that.

But if not, I can't say I'll be looking forward to "Bridget Jones is a Grandma" and its use of any number of grandmother or old age related songs, although "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" could be a fitting and obvious end to the series should that plot point actually happen. Viewer mileage might vary, but this installment only rates as a 4 out of 10 for me.

Reviewed August 31, 2016 / Posted September 16, 2016

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