In real time, it's been three-and-a-half years since the release of Bridget Jones's Diary. In movie time, it's only been six weeks since slightly plump, slightly daffy Bridget (Renee Zellweger) -- then a book publicist, now a TV reporter, has settled down with the man of her dreams, human rights lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth).

The diary of the first film, although eliminated from this one's title (so what the hell does the title of this film have to do with?), still exists, and by the time of opening credits, with "The Sound of Music" and "Nobody Does It Better" already unimaginatively played on the soundtrack, we're privy to find out, via voice-over, that Bridget and Mark have had 71 shags.

But that's not all we hear, and the script makes it immediately clear that the endearing, fairly realistic Bridget of the first film has now changed, not only from publicist to fluff reporter, but into a silly, whiny, self-obsessed, self-deprecating, jealous, and downright annoying woman.

As the film goes along, she only gets worse.

This is a veritably unwatchable follow-up to the genial first film. It has moments that are light and bubbly and funny, but as a package, it's a major disappointment.

Part of the problem is that it's not much more than a rehash of the first one, kind of in reverse. Bridget, you might remember, once had the hots for the caddish but charming Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), who was then her boss. But a mutual attraction between her and the nice but comparatively flat Mark won out in the end. Now that she's with Mark, who accepts her and her quirks almost unblinkingly, it's "inevitable" that Daniel will make a reappearance. Funny that, in those same short six weeks, he's also gone from publishing to TV reporting, and has even become a sort of star in the field.

Daniel is still a shameless pig, albeit one who is, according to himself, "trying to be a better man." But the second he and Bridget are tossed together -- in a bit of plotting that makes little sense -- he's back to his ogling ways, as well as freely talking about our heroine's "wobbly bits." Before long, the script even has him again mentioning her big panties. Sorry, that might have been funny the first time around -- now it's rote.

As is too much else in this poorly drawn sequel. Once again, Bridget has a natural thing for making an impression by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Once again, her parents (Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent) are trotted out, this time with nothing whatsoever to add to the goings-on (the same goes for the tacking on of Bridget's three pals again). Once again, she talks too much and thinks too much, and, lucky us, we get to hear it all.

Is there anything to recommend about the film? Sure. Zellweger certainly gives it her all, throwing herself into the role. And Grant proves one more time that he's much better, or at least much more refreshing, playing a cad than the usual Hugh Grant nice guy. But that's about it.

The three main characters are simply not very likeable. Mark is a dullard, Daniel is a jerk, Bridget is so naive and unsure of herself, she borders on stupidity. And excuse, me, I'm no prude, but does anyone else think it's a little off-putting in these days and times even to hint that there's something funny about the possibility of pregnancy from unsafe sex?

Near the end of the film, the plot turns serious -- as in Midnight Express serious. Any semblance of comedy just vanishes, only to return, jarringly, a beat or two later, as if nothing wrong had occurred. Add to that the endless and shameless instances of pop music songs blaring out of the speakers and explaining through lyrics either what's going on or what's about to happen. It's like some sort of Greek chorus for idiots. And when the movie finally does wind down, it's in a manner so controlled and contrived, there's nothing left to surprise.

But the worst part of the whole thing is that poor happy-sad-confused Bridget is no longer endearing. She's just someone you'll want to go away -- or at least stop talking.

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