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Film review: Bridget Jones’ Diary

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The major difference between sex comedies that are made for primarily male audiences and those made for female audiences has to do with the film's character development . . . or lack thereof.

To put it in simpler terms, while the former are almost always concerned more with sexual high jinks than developing flesh-and-blood characters, the latter usually splits the plot down the middle, 50/50, between the characters and the high jinks.

Refreshingly, "Bridget Jones's Diary" is better than that, and almost completely concentrates on its very appealing characters. What sexual material there is goes to explain why they act the way they do.

Although probably not intentionally, this amusing adaptation of the best-selling novel very nearly copies the vibe of cable television's popular "Sex and the City" — though fortunately, it's not quite as sex-obsessed as that series, and it wisely pares the focus down to just one person instead of four.

Another wise filmmaking decision was the one that got the film some early — and it turns out, unjustified — criticism: the casting of American actress Renee Zellweger in the title role, as a decidedly British, slightly overweight, thirtysomething "singleton."

After spending another Christmas alone — and suffering through an unsuccessful attempt by her mother (Gemma Jones, from "The Winslow Boy") to set her up with former childhood playmate Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) — Bridget is determined to find the perfect man.

Unfortunately, she instead finds herself involved with a much less promising prospect — her charismatic but caddish boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), who has no intention of settling down.

Not too surprisingly, that relationship ends disastrously, and Bridget is forced to find other work (in television news). She also finds herself spending more time with Mark, who isn't nearly as smug and rude as he initially appeared to be. But just as that relationship starts to take off, Daniel reappears, begging for one more chance.

Even though it keeps the spirit of the book and its characters intact, this adaptation (written by Fielding, as well as one of the screenwriters behind "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill") abandons the diary format fairly early on; too bad, since it might have helped progress the storyline. (This is one of those rare instances where a voice-over narration might have actually helped for a change.)

However, documentary director Sharon Maguire, making her feature filmmaking debut here, paces things so briskly, that you may not even notice. And Zellweger makes it very watchable.

Yet as good as Zellweger is, she's very nearly upstaged by Grant, who sends up his previous, charm-filled movie characters quite convincingly.

"Bridget Jones's Diary" is rated R for occasional strong profanity, crude sexual humor and references, violence (a brawl), partial female nudity, brief sex (overheard) and brief gore (seen on television). Running time: 95 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com