Dir: Beeban KidronUK-US-Fr 2004 107mins

Bridget Jones is back, as fretful and neurotic as ever,in an expertly crafted (if rather soulless) sequel which is likely to hit allthe right buttons for Working Title. Renee Zelwegger again excels as the podgy,thirtysomething London singleton with the ineffably messy love life. She is fedplenty of witty and acerbic one-liners by a high-powered screenwriting team.Hugh Grant effectively reprises his role as the womanising cad, Daniel Cleaver,while Colin Firth looks as tousled and soulful as ever playing handsome butuptight lawyer, Darcy, the love of Bridget's life. Nonetheless, it occasionally seems as if we're watching aremake, not a sequel. The same characters perform the same arabesques as inSharon Maguire's Bridget Jones's Diary(2001), albeit in different order. The other key novelty here is that there issome foreign travel thrown in.

In her first cinema outing, Bridget reaped a weighty $280m at the worldwide box-office.Novelist Helen Fielding's heroine seems certain to post equally fat returnswith her second foray on the big screen. She should certainly help WorkingTitle to exorcise the memories of a very skinny summer in which Thunderbirds nose-dived and Wimbledon double-faulted with USaudiences.

Some reviews will be grudging, some male viewers might findBridget's antics on the emetic side, US viewers may be baffled by references topopular UK TV shows like Footballers'Wives, but that shouldn't affect what should be bumper business both sidesof the Atlantic.

As the film begins, Bridget is in clover. "I've foundmy happy ending at last," she confides in her diary-style voice-over whichruns throughout the movie. She has spent several weeks as the girlfriend ofDarcy. He seemingly loves everything about her, even her "wobblybits." But she has simmering doubts about the relationship. These areexacerbated during a skiing holiday during which she thinks she has fallenpregnant. She makes a fool of herself at Darcy's law society dinner and remainssuspicious that he is having an affair with the leggy and glamorous RebeccaGillies. The relationship splutters to a halt and Bridget (still trying to makeher mark as a serious TV journalist) is whisked off to Thailand by her bossesto present a travel show. Her co-host is the seemingly reformed Cleaver, whoclaims to have been in sex therapy. After narrowly avoiding being seduced byhim, she ends up in a Thai jail, accused of drug smuggling.

The narrative moves forward in episodic fashion. Rather thana seamless piece of storytelling, this is essentially a collection of comicset-pieces. Some work, some don't. In one memorable scene, we see Bridgetcommuning with the sand on a magic mushroom trip. In another, she takes to theslopes, inadvertently wins a slalom race, and ends up skiing into a pharmacywhere the German-speaking locals are baffled by her requests for a pregnancytesting kit. The sequence in the Thai prison, in which she choreographs theother inmates in a performance of Madonna's LikeA Virgin, is excruciating, but whenever the film lurches too far towardwhimsy or mawkishness, the filmmakers will throw in a piece or sardonicdialogue or a joke about Bridget's oversized underwear.

Paradoxically, Bridget is a prim and surprisingly naivefigure. Though she talks endlessly about "shagging," she doesn't dovery much of it. Zellwegger seems to have put even more weight on to play thepart than for the first film. The risk was that if she made Bridget too blowzy,it would be mystifying why Darcy and Cleaver were so obsessed by her, but thatif she was too demure, she would turn into a wallflower. It's a tribute toZellwegger's virtuoso performance that Bridget still remains a credibleromantic heroine, however absurd and embarrassing the circumstances in whichshe finds herself.

As per usual in Working Title's romantic comedies, we'retreated to various picture postcard views of London landmarks in breaks betweenthe drama. There is one bravura shot in which the camera pulls back fromsolitary, self-pitying Bridget and pans across a huge, night-time cityscapefull of happy lovers, but such formal flourishes are kept to a minimum.

What now for Bridget Jones' Early on, as we see Bridget skydiving to the accompaniment of Carly Simon's Nobody Does It Better before plummeting down to earth in a pool ofpig shit, the filmmakers pay their own tongue-in-cheek hommage to James Bond.It's doubtful whether Bridget will have the staying power of Ian Fleming's spyhero. There are no new Helen Fielding novels for Working Title to draw on andit's hard to see how Bridget could yet again be restored to her blissfully unhappy singleton state, but ifthe box-office warrants it, don't be surprised if Bevan and Fellner try to turnJones into a Bond-style franchise with a second sequel.

Prod cos: Working Title, Universal pictures, StudioCanal, Miramax
Dist (US): Universal
Dist (intl): Universal/UIP
Prods: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner,Jonathan Cavendish
Exec prods: Debra Hayward, LizaChasin
Scr: Andrew Davies, Helen Fielding, Adam Brooks, Richard Curtis
Cine: Adrian Biddle
Prod Des: Gemma Jackson
Ed: Greg Hayden
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones,Jacinda Barrett, Shirley Henderson, Sallly Phillips, James Callis, JessicaStephenson, Celia Imrie, Neil Pearson