Baggage Claim (2013) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and some language
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Jill Scott, Adam Brody, Jenifer Lewis, Taye Diggs, Djimon Hounsou, Boris Kodjoe, Tremaine Neverson (Trey Songz), Lauren London, Christina Milian
Small role: Ned Beatty
Director: David E. Talbert
Screenplay: David E. Talbert (based on his book)
Review published October 1, 2013
Baggage Claim stars Paula Patton (2 Guns, Disconnect) as Montana 'Mo' Moore, a nearly-30 (Patton, in real life, is closer to 40) Baltimore-based flight attendant who has never been married, much to the consternation of her five-times-betrothed mother (Lewis, Cars 2). The pressure to find someone to tie the knot with reaches an all-time high now that her Mo's younger sister (London, ATL) has announced that she's going to be married in 30 days. Not wanting to go through yet another family wedding with nothing on the horizon for herself, Montana sets a personal goal: to get a man to propose to her before her sister makes it official. Enlisting the aid of her coworkers in the airline industry, Montana hatches a plan to fly the friendly skies to revisit all of her ex-boyfriends who are still single, waiting for them to book a flight on her airlines to ensure she runs into them, in order to see if the second time's the charm in their relationship.
Yes, the above paragraph is the actual plotline to a green-lighted film, written and directed by David E. Talbert (First Sunday, A Woman Like That) from his own 10-year-old book of the same name. Baggage Claim isn't unpleasant, and, if you're not expecting much, it offers up some likeable actors and a few funny performances. But the cliché-ridden screenplay, with its completely obnoxious and highly implausible main plot (why would a woman who hasn't been able to get any man to propose to her in 15 years of dating think that she could get nearly any man to do it in the matter of a few days?), is DOA from the get-go.
Just as we see Paula Patton running at breakneck speed from destination to destination, so too do we see Talbert arrive at of the predictable rom-com stopovers in the storyline before finally getting to the expected destination. Though the film does end with a modicum of self respect for its main character, the message, that the only traits a man has worth anything is that he be handsome, wealthy, successful, and willing to do anything for his woman, is pretty substandard, particularly for a daft woman who isn't much of a catch herself outside of her looks. In these kinds of movies, women often seem to think they are defined, not by who they are, by the kind of man they can land, which, while this has been a traditional romantic comedy staple in many a film in the genre, makes the film feel way out of place in 2013.
The biggest problem with Baggage Claim isn't the cast so much as that they are all asked to play characters far more dumb and shallow than the actors really are. When you look at Paula Patton in almost any role, you see a very attractive, smart, and engaging, sultry-voiced woman, but the way she is written to be little more than a simpering ignoramus in this story, as a stable of hot, wealthy men who are equally shallow in their intentions throw themselves at her feet before ultimately proving themselves unworthy of her affections.
It's all gloss and little actual personality, a paint-by-numbers romantic comedy that sticks in predictable characters like the fat and funny BFF (Scott, WHy Did I Get Married Too?), the snarky gay man (Brody, Lovelace), and the boy-next-door (almost literally), lifelong male friend (Luke, Definitely Maybe) that everyone but her knows is the one she should get with in the end; the fact that he's named "Mr. Wright" should tell you all you need to know. As we can already guess the ultimate guy for Mo, the rest is merely a plot that idles in its own set paces, with a plethora of scenes of Montana running maniacally, waving her arms around as she stomps forward in high heels through airports, trying to stop airline personnel from closing gates, or trying to hail cabs just in the nick of time. You can also predict that the film's ending will be one more mad scramble, another rom-com staple, to try to connect with the dreamy man of her future.
Though the film's flimsy premise, contrived plot points and stock characterizations are far too pat to make this anything close to a good film, it does showcase the appeal of its actors, with Patton showing that she might be able to carry a romantic comedy with some verve and sassy appeal, if her character weren't required to look at life and love with the mind-set of a 9-year-old girl. Neo-soul diva Jill Scott shows her ability to handle broad comedy. Though her musical talents aren't featured, as a lifelong aficionado of the genre, I can also attest that R&B soundtrack is also quite good, perhaps the only thing about the film that is consistently appealing from beginning to end). Also, Scott's interplay with Adam Brody gives the film some of the few laughs it has going for it.
Taye Diggs (Rent) is also amusing as the toy dog-loving, would-be Congressman who is so controlling, he can't let Montana do anything without him doing it for her first, though, really, it does become painful to watch him go through the motions of a Hail-Mary wedding proposal late in the film that stretches the belief-suspension of this already ludicrous film beyond the breaking point. I mean, what he really wants is the ideal trophy, say-nothing wife to smile and wave while he pursues his political career, and she has already shown an inability to play any form of passive role for very long.
Hopefully Patton can land a better film than this for her next showcase, along with all of the rest of the talented performers involved, in this airline-centric comedy that never takes off.
©2013 Vince Leo