Looking back over a year's worth of movie reviews, I find far too many repetitions. For example, virtually every time I see a movie based on a book (OK -- a book I've actually read), I always say the same thing: "Well, the movie isn't as good as the book."
This time, I'm turning over a new leaf. I'm changing my tune. I'm switching horses in midstream. I'm ... well, I'm telling you that Bridget Jones's Diary, the film, is at least as good as Bridget Jones's Diary, the novel. (Mind you, I didn't like the novel all that much despite its rave reviews and best-seller status, so in some ways I'm damning it with faint praise, but heck, at least I'm not repeating myself.)
The movie has left most of the funny parts of the novel intact. Bridget Jones is still a 30-something single woman bent on self-improvement. She writes daily in her diary the amount of pounds lost and gained, the number of cigarettes smoked, the alcohol units consumed. She swears that she will find herself a nice, adult man for a serious relationship, and immediately finds herself in bed with her charming and ne'er-do-well boss. And so on.
Although the movie is missing some of the funniest quips from the novel, its great strength is in the casting. Rene Zellweger is a dead-on perfect choice for the perpetually injured, hopeful and feisty Bridget. Zellweger manages such a painful, shiny smile in the midst of one ridiculous humiliation after another that you cannot help but root for her. Hugh Grant is utterly delightful as her slimy and sexy boss Daniel, and despite knowing that he is wrong, wrong, wrong, he oozes so much good humor and charm in his nicest moments that you're immediately willing to forgive his self-satisfied soliloquies in his worst. Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, the maybe-nice guy in the love triangle, resonates well with both Zellweger and Grant, and provides a solid anchor to their crazy ditziness.
Reviewers of the book swear that if you're a 30-something female and still single, you'll find something of yourself in Bridget Jones. I'm not so sure of that, although you might find some terrific comeback lines when people ask you why you aren't married yet, and isn't the biological clock running "tick tock"? Book or movie, the character has some great one-liners. Still, if you're willing to sit through the first quarter of the movie where the pace is a little slow, the reward is a solid romantic comedy with some really intelligent laughs. And there's no need this time to run out and buy the book.