Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent

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Dear Diary: After long months of mostly lousy movies, finally saw one that was a hoot from start to finish. It's a trifle, and women may get a bigger kick out of it than men, but what's wrong with that? Bruce Willis will still have a career.

Bridget Jones's Diary, a romantic comedy, is a faithful adaptation of British author Helen Fielding's highly amusing novel in diary form about the inimitable Ms. Jones (Zellweger), a 32-year-old self-described "singleton" who toils as a publicist for a London publishing house. Admirers of the book, released here in 1998, will be pleased to learn that the movie preserves Jones's acerbic voice by lifting diary entries and using them as voice-overs. This means we know exactly what Jones thinks as she struggles to lose 20 lbs., attempts to cut back on her copious drinking and smoking and wavers between two potential suitors. The first is the frosty, badly dressed Mark Darcy (Firth), whose last name should tip off fans of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, from which Bridget Jones draws its inspiration, that this man is worthy of consideration. The more dashing alternative is Daniel Cleaver (Grant), Jones's devastatingly attractive but promiscuous boss.

Zellweger, who continues to impress as a contemporary incarnation of Doris Day, more than holds her own with her leading men, both of whom glow, and a strong supporting cast. (R)

Bottom Line: Jolly good show

Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, Rosario Dawson, Alan Cumming, Parker Posey

Josie wants to be this year's Charlie's Angels. Who wouldn't? Angels, a hit movie from a dumb TV show, was fun and sexy and shiny and smart, like a fully accessorized supermodel with brain already installed. But Josie is more like a suburban girl doing her best to keep up. She colors her hair, shortens her skirt, whitens her teeth. She may even wind up prom queen. But shopping alone at the mall, she knows she is a fake.

Based on a comic book that was adapted in the '70s into a popular cartoon, Josie follows the misadventures of three would-be rockers (Cook, Reid and Dawson). They are signed to a recording contract by a scout (Cumming) looking for fresh but unsuspecting talent: The label's owner (Posey) buries subliminal messages in the music, spurring kids to go on shopping sprees.

The movie is full of quick, funny gags—MTV's Carson Daly turns up as a hit man—but Josie and her friends are lifeless characters, passive victims of the mean grown-ups. Cumming and Posey, preening like crazy, are the true teen spirits here. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Girls can't play

Whoopi Goldberg, Jada Pinkett Smith, LL Cool J, Loretta Devine, Vivica A. Fox

When a minister (Cedric the Entertainer) visits Raynelle Slocumb (Goldberg) to gather material for her late husband's eulogy, he asks her to name a couple of his distinguishing personality traits. "Mean and surly," Raynelle snaps.

Death be not proud, or even very dignified, in Kingdom Come, a broadly played and only fitfully amusing comedy. From the moment Woodrow "Bud" Slocumb keels over in his kitchen after suffering a fatal stroke at the start of the movie, his family exhibits outrageously bad behavior. No one has anything nice to say about the dead man or, for that matter, one another. As the family gathers for the funeral, husbands quarrel with wives, brother battles brother, and mother and son go at each other. The movie is gooey-soft at heart, though, so by the end differences are resolved and all face a brighter tomorrow.

The fun of Kingdom, as adapted by writers David Dean Bottrell and Jessie Jones from their own 1991 play and directed by Doug McHenry (Jason's Lyric), is in watching its actors gamely stretch. Cast against type, Cool J is a melancholy mechanic, Smith a shrewish wife and Devine a Holy Roller. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Here lies a so-so comedy

David Spade

Joe Dirt, a newly hired janitor at a radio station, makes a half-hearted stab at improving his white-trash image. He tacks an "e" onto the surname and pronounces it Dir-tay. But with his small body topped by an over-styled mullet haircut—it lies on his head like a comatose beaver—Joe is doomed to a life of indignity. When a small meteor lands near him, he loads it onto a wagon and proudly hauls it into town, only to learn that it is not astral stone but a lump of lavatory refuse dumped from a plane. Yet he perseveres.

Sure, this is another of those extra-crude comedies—and a good, silly one, at that—but Joe, as played by Spade, is a genuine comic inspiration: a holy fool who, malodorous though he may be, takes time to stop and smell the roses. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: High on lowlife

>Along Came a Spider The always-watchable Morgan Freeman, again playing Det. Alex Cross (from Kiss the Girls), stars in a perfunctory thriller. (R)

Blow Ambitious epic about the rise and fall of a '70s drug dealer (Johnny Depp) never takes viewers high enough. Based on a true story. (R)

Heartbreakers Breezy, chuckle-filled comedy follows a mother-daughter team of con artists (Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt). (PG-13)

Memento A must-see. Intriguing thriller in which the plot runs backward and the hero (Guy Pearce) suffers from short-term memory loss. Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano costar. (R)

Spy Kids James Bond, watch your back. Two kids must rescue their ex-spy parents who've been kidnapped. (PG)

The Tailor of Panama Smart, character-driven thriller based on a John le Carré novel has nifty turns by Geoffrey Rush and Pierce Brosnan. (R)

  • Contributors:
  • Tom Gliatto.