When a sequel has to hit the reset button and take all its characters back to where they started, it probably didn't need to be made. The romantic-comedy equivalent of Shrek 2, Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason doesn't even try to hide the absence of new ideas. Having already steered its eponymous unhappy "singleton" (Renée Zellweger) away from irredeemable cad Hugh Grant and toward stuffy-but-kind good guy Colin Firth, the annoying but intermittently winning 2001 film Bridget Jones's Diary could easily have closed the book on its characters and moved on. But no. Adapting Helen Fielding's not terribly acclaimed sequel to the original novel, Edge Of Reason picks up where the last film left off, then starts over where it all began.

Still riddled with self-doubt, Zellweger sabotages her relationship with Firth, patches it up, then ruins it again. Grant comes back, claiming to have reformed his womanizing ways. Firth almost spoils his chance at happiness by keeping himself at a distance. The story blusters its way to an ending that's both inevitable and slow to arrive, and though there's a late-film detour to a women's prison in Thailand, make no mistake: It's the same old song. Screenwriters Adam Brooks, Andrew Davies, and Richard Curtis almost seem to be working from a checklist: The film opens with the obligatory visit to Zellweger's parents (Gemma Jones and an underused Jim Broadbent), continues through slapstick mishaps, has its heroine tell someone off to the approving chorus of an Aretha Franklin song, puts Firth and Grant into a humorously unconvincing fistfight, and sets up a frantic last-minute reconciliation. (That last bit requires the efforts of three songs from a wall-to-wall soundtrack that's already working overtime.)

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As before, Grant puts the film to shame every time he wraps his smirk around lines much wittier than the material surrounding them. Beeban Kidron directs the film with little imagination, but the biggest problem with Edge Of Reason comes from Bridget Jones herself. Zellweger doesn't really deserve the blame—though she might have found some new tricks apart from the pinched, teary expression she employed in the original—but the character has grown tedious. She spent the first film convinced that no one could ever love her, and she spends the second behaving like someone no one could ever love: She's so wrapped up in insecurity and jealousy that it becomes a stretch that no one thought to lock her up sooner. A Thai prison might be too cruel a fate for her, but it would be best if she thought twice about any return appearances.