It's time to start writing those petition letters to Universal, urging the studio: Please save us all, including moviegoers worldwide and Renée Zellweger's waistline, from a third 'Bridget Jones' movie.
You'd have thought, after the raspberries that greeted 2004's sequel 'Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,' that they'd leave well enough alone. But no, that film earned $262 million worldwide (nearly as much as the $281 million earned by the initial film, 2001's 'Bridget Jones's Diary'), so the studio has been plotting for a couple years ago to make a third installment. Now, according to Entertainment Weekly's Inside Movies blog, they're going ahead with it. Brace yourselves for another round of a zaftig Zellweger being adorably inept and utterly incapable of choosing the right man, and another slap fight between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.
There's no firm word on what the plot will be, or whether it will echo that of Helen Fielding's third 'Bridget Jones' novel, also currently in the works. But EW's Dave Karger, while reporting for Access Hollywood, learned a potential plotline from Firth. "I can tell you that Bridget and Mark can't have children," Karger quoted Firth as saying. "So then she makes the huge mistake of going back to Daniel Cleaver [Grant's character] for long enough to get pregnant. And I think he dumps her, and she's left stranded, and guess who comes back to rescue her?"
The first 'Bridget Jones' movie was a delightful surprise. Not just because the Texas-bred actress pulled off a flawless British accent or made herself look pudgy and frumpy, but also because she gave a fearless comic performance as a smart and spirited woman not afraid to make herself look foolish in pursuit of Mr. Right. She was nominated for an Oscar and should have won (instead of earning a consolation prize Oscar for her supporting role as Granny Clampett in 'Cold Mountain' a couple years later).
The second movie, however, ruined everything that was charming about the first. It upped the slapstick, made Bridget stupider, and essentially rehashed the plot of the first one, as if no one had learned anything from events that had taken place just weeks earlier. Despite its success at the box office, it left a sour taste in the mouths of critics -- and perhaps fans as well. It's no wonder that it's been seven years since Universal and production company Working Title have seriously contemplated doing a third movie.
By the way, Zellweger is 42 now. That doesn't mean the pregnancy plotline is far-fetched, but it does mean that her character's repeated dithering over these two men, one of whom is clearly wrong for her, isn't as cute and lovable now as it was when she was 32. Also, all that yo-yo dieting that the reed-thin actress has had to do to put on the weight needed play the average-sized Bridget (and then to take it off for all her other roles) can't be healthy.
Zellweger hasn't had a hit movie since 'Edge of Reason.' Given the short shelf life of Hollywood leading ladies, that seven years must seem like eons to her. (Grant, too, hasn't had a hit for a while, since 2007's 'Music and Lyrics.' Firth's career, however, is on fire after his Oscar this past winter for 'The King's Speech,' which was also a worldwide smash.) So it's no wonder that Zellweger (and probably Grant) would want to go back to that well. At least it's a proven brand with some residual fan good will. Still, at this stage, for Zellweger to start carbo-loading again in order to recapture long-past glories smacks of the desperation of a star past her prime, sort of like Sylvester Stallone training for another 'Rocky,' or Bruce Willis for another 'Die Hard,' or Harrison Ford for another 'Indiana Jones.'
Yes, this is Hollywood, where no title with the least bit of familiarity will go unexploited until the last possible drop of inspiration and fan interest has been squeezed out of it. And yes, it's probably even more of a sop to overseas audiences, which are much more forgiving of shark-jumping franchises and lame sequels than domestic audiences are. (After all, 'Edge of Reason' made only $40 million here; it made the other 85 percent of its gross outside of North America.)
Still, don't you wish they'd all leave well enough alone? 'Edge of Reason' did plenty to tarnish the reputation of Bridget Jones the character (and Zellweger) the way we'd like to remember them. Is it really worth a few quick bucks to risk ruining those memories completely?
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.