Bridget Jones’s Baby

September 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey
Directed by: Sharon Maguire (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”)
Written by: Helen Fielding (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”), Dan Mazer (Bruno), Emma Thompson (“Sense and Sensibility”)

It’s never a good idea to milk a film franchise when the story has already dried up. Such seemed to be the case with 2004’s “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” the pitiful sequel to the highly satisfying original “Bridget Jones’s Diary” three years prior. As one of the best romantic comedies in the last 15 years, “Diary” set the bar so high (Renee Zellweger was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress), “Reason” really had no purpose for existing.

Now in an attempt to round out the trilogy and capture some of the appeal of the first film, original director Sharon Maguire returns to helm the third installation “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” a cheery and charming addition that might be considered “jumping the shark” if it was a TV sitcom.

Instead, “Baby” is a bubbly way to re-introduce audiences back to Bridget, now 43 years old and still single, but living life her own way and in less of a state of self-pity than before. After having a one-night stand at a music festival with dating website entrepreneur Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey filling in for Hugh Grant as the romantic foil) and hooking up with old flame Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), Bridget discovers she is pregnant but doesn’t know which of the two is the father.

Of course, with Bridget, things can’t be as simple as telling the men one of them is the father. Instead, she strings them both along allowing each of them to believe he’s the baby’s daddy. It’s not until she breaks down and reveals the truth to Jack and Mark and the two men decide to stay in it for the long run that “Baby” becomes less of a sideshow and more of a story about what is in the best interest of Bridget and the baby.

Without Grant’s character, however, all we’re left with is two good guys to cheer for until the very end. Sure, the narrative shouldn’t be as much about the men as it is about our title character and her bun in the oven, but there’s not much conflict when either of the possible men in her life would probably make fine fathers. It’s hard to find much fault in some of that dry British humor though. With Oscar-winning screenwriter Emma Thompson (“Sense and Sensibility”) thrown into the mix, “Baby” definitely takes a step up from where Bridget left off.

New in Town

January 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Renée Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr., J.K. Simmons
Directed by: Jonas Elmer (“Nynne”)
Written by: Ken Rance (debut) and C. Jay Cox (“Sweet Home Alabama”)

Putting a city girl into an unfamiliar environment is probably one of the oldest gags in the screenwriter comedy handbook, so it’s peculiar when someone tries to get away with another version of it so blatantly and without its own personality. But that’s exactly what Danish director Jonas Elmer does with “New in Town,” a movie that’s just as generic as its title.

Put some blame on co-writer C. Jay Cox, who has been down this road before. In 2002’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” he planted a New York socialite played by Reese Witherspoon into the boot-scootin’ South for some sitcom-like scenarios. In “Town,” he and debut screenwriter Ken Rance do the same with Renée Zellweger, this time traveling farther north to give us a dose of banality disguised as a tale of female empowerment.

Zellweger plays Lucy Hill, a Miami businesswoman who has to trade in her high heels for snow boots when she is sent to Minnesota to oversee the restructuring of one of her company’s manufacturing plants. She ends up in New Ulm, a small Minnesotan town where scrapbooking, crow hunting, and watching the Vikings are the only pastimes worth mentioning (Surely the Minnesota Tourism Bureau didn’t sign off on this).

Although she doesn’t want to “get personally attached to the town” since she is only there to supervise the “simple reconfiguration” of the plant, Lucy finds time to spark something up with Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.), a local union representative who also happens to be the stereotypical flannel-wearing burly man with a heart of gold that’s sure to sweep naïve Lucy off her frostbitten feet.

As a romantic comedy, “New in Town” is lacking in any chemistry between Zellweger and Connick Jr. They’re attraction for each other is spurred by an evening of sharing sob stories and getting caught making out on the couch. Even worse than the underdeveloped romance between the two leads is Cox and Rance’s generalized view of all things Minnesota. There’s bound to be quite a few intelligent people even in a small town like New Ulm, but the screenwriting duo would have you believe anyone knee-deep in snow – including the waitress named Flo – has the brain capacity of a retarded elk.

Renting 1987’s “Baby Boom” starring Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard is a better choice if you want a similar plot outline and a love story set in frigid weather. It’s classic, witty, and won’t have you wondering if all Danish-driven rom coms are always this grating.

Leatherheads

April 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: George Clooney, Renée Zellweger, John Krasinski
Directed by: George Clooney (“Good Night and Good Luck”)
Written by: Duncan Brantley (debut) and Rick Reilly (debut)

For a pair of debuting feature film screenwriters, Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly really capture the style and ambiance of professional football in the 1920’s in “Leatherheads.” Although novices in Hollywood, both men were Sports Illustrated reporters for much of their lives, which explains the panache and slight absurdity of their era-based film. When you study something long enough, it starts sinking in.

It’s been 17 years since Brantley and Reilly wrote the screenplay for “Leatherheads” before it was bought by Universal Pictures to go into production. The guys lucked out when it landed in the lap of Academy Award-winning actor and Academy Award-nominated director George Clooney (“Syriana”), whose suave personality and dry humor seems to fit the classic nature of the screwball comedy genre (for gosh sakes, the man started his career in “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” and was the only person outside the Conner family that could match wits in the late ‘80s with Rosanne).

It’s nice to see someone as talented and sought-after in the industry not take themselves so seriously (i.e. Tom Cruise in “Austin Powers in Goldmember” or Jack Nicholson in “Anger Management”). In “Leatherheads,” Clooney lets it all hang out like he did in “O Brother, Where Out Thou?” and it works.

In the film, Clooney plays Jimmy “Dodge” Connelly, the captain of the Deluth Bulldogs, a professional football team in the ’20s. During this era, the sport was not what we know it as today. No one comes to the games and his entire team is made up of “miners, farmers, and shell-shocked veterans.” Although the players have passion for the sport, everyone else sees it as a spectacle more than anything else.

The football games everyone is watching instead are in the college ranks. With young, strapping players like Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) from Princeton, who just happens to be a war hero, there’s more to watch during these games that trick plays and 300-pound linemen trying to kick field goals. Carter is the poster boy for collegiate athletes and everyone wants a piece of him.

This includes Dodge and sparky newspaper reporter Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger). Dodge wants Carter to join his ragtag team and invigorate the league when he finds out they are going bankrupt. On the other hand, Lexie has learned of some shocking allegations about Carter’s time in the war and wants to find out if his battalion heroics are the truth or the result of tall tales.

“Leatherheads” is gawky at times, but never fumbles. It’s an entertaining take in the world of sports most of us have probably only seen on black and white photos. Boys will like the football (there’s not much of it) and the silly laughs, while girls will like the way it sort of feels like “A League of their Own,” but on the gridiron. Think of Clooney as the reincarnation of Spencer Tracy and Zellweger as Katharine Hepburn and you’ll do just fine.