In the world of Baggage Claim, a man’s inability to use chopsticks is a deal-breaker on par with being a male chauvinist or being gay. Odd as that may sound, perhaps such a dismissal shouldn’t be a surprise when the one doing the rejecting, Baltimore flight attendant Montana Moore (Paula Patton), is on a desperate 30-day quest to land a husband before her little sister’s wedding. With a face incapable of doing more than smiling or looking confused and an elegance incompatible with the physical comedy demanded of her, Patton is the wrong person for this type of film, one of many bad moves by writer/director David E. Talbert. Living up to the aforementioned grounds for romantic denial, his film’s fairy tale circumstances and reverse-feminist mindset are wildly disconnected from reality and keeps what could have been a stupid but sweet tale from realizing its potential.
Pathetic yet lovable, like a puppy that keeps wetting the floor, Montana makes for a difficult lead. Growing up in the shadow of her serial bride mother Catherine (Jenifer Lewis), her frantic need for a wedding ring is supposedly validated by this familial pressure. Childhood best friend William (Derek Luke), who conveniently lives across the hall, is apparently the only one who finds fault with this thinking, yet his protests are shut down by Montana’s faux self-confidence. Given the shortsighted support of her flight attendant friends Gail (Jill Scott, screwing anything that moves) and Sam (Adam Brody, a walking checklist of gay stereotypes), it’s no wonder she won’t listen to reason, but the extent to which these two enable their colleague is on a level of dumbness all its own.
Sam’s ploy to search through Montana’s phone contacts to reconnect her with old flames who just happen to be flying is Webster’s definition of ridiculous. Furthermore, his assurance that “everyone” flies since it’s the holidays assumes a certain exclusive tax bracket in these potential beaus, and once they appear their pedigree is fittingly and laughably high. Among Montana’s candidates are a hot young music producer (Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson), a hopeful congressman (Taye Diggs), and a hotel mogul (Djimon Hounsou), the last of whom inspires the film’s one quality line, a Coming To America reference courtesy of Sam. Never mind that there’s no sense of how or why each relationship ended, just the assumption that each man won’t be able to resist Montana’s charms, happens to be free for a few nights once she learns of their flight, and is sure to propose to her shortly thereafter. How she possibly remained single for so long is a true mystery indeed.
Baggage Claim eventually debunks the bulk of Montana’s unhealthy behaviors, moves that would be more encouraging if they weren’t enacted in pretty much the most ham-fisted rom-com manner possible. In addition to revelations via speeches and treasure hunt gifts, the identity of Montana’s true love is so incredibly transparent that he may as well wear a neon sign. The character’s name, when said in a particular way, is an idiotic giveaway and a depth to which not even a Disney princess tale would stoop. Not uttering the name, however, would be false to the rest of the film’s moronic nature, and while there’s something to be said for consistency, that approach earns no extra points here.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language.
Baggage Claim is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.