Mark Reviews Movies

Baggage Claim

BAGGAGE CLAIM

1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: David E. Talbert

Cast: Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Adam Brody, Jill Scott, Jenifer Lewis, Taye Diggs, Trey Songz, Christina Milian, Lauren London, Djimon Hounsou, Ned Beatty

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and some language)

Running Time: 1:33

Release Date: 9/27/13


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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 26, 2013

Here is some unsolicited advice for screenwriters: When the female protagonist of your romantic comedy states upfront that she's looking for Mr. Right, giving a male character the surname "Wright" eliminates any and all tension that you could have created from the scenario. If you're going to do that, at least don't make a big deal out of it. For example, if Mr. Wright has a business and he drives around a pickup truck with the company's name and motto painted on the side, it's probably not a good idea to have that motto be, "When it's WRIGHT, it's RIGHT."  Yes, the homophones are capitalized on the truck, too.

From the moment he appears on screen, it's clear how William Wright's (Derek Luke) destiny is going to tie into Montana Moore's (Paula Patton). In fact, just look at the pleasant alliteration in both of their names. We could even go further and notice that an "M" upside-down looks like a "W" and vice versa. As much as one might be opposed to spoilers in reviews, the term can't really be applied to Baggage Claim, which goes out of its way to be its own best spoiler every time William and Montana get together to talk about their pasts and their futures—their hopes and the things that they consider to be the important in life.

Here, the central dramatic question of whether or not Montana will find the right guy is not even a question but a promise. It's as if the screenplay by director David E. Talbert, who also wrote the novel upon which the movie is based, is less concerned with giving us a reason to care about its protagonist's fate than it is in providing comfort through the constant iteration that her fate is somehow predestined. We are not watching her learn anything as she goes through an elaborate scheme to find a man who's marriage material; we are simply witnessing the delaying of the inevitable.

Montana is a flight attendant, which has put a bit of a strain on her love life. It's much to the surprise of her co-workers Sam (Adam Brody), the sensitive and sassy gay friend, and Gail (Jill Scott), the promiscuous friend who doesn't fully comprehend Montana's desire to settle down, that she's dating a man.

After that relationship falls apart in a series of embarrassing situations that end up with her degrading herself by hiding in a trash can, the distraught Montana becomes even more frustrated with her loveless lot in life when her younger sister Sheree (Lauren London), still in college, announces that she is engaged. Their mother Catherine (Jenifer Lewis), always putting pressure on her elder daughter to marry, is convinced she won't live to see Montana walk down the aisle.

The whole affair motivates Montana to find a marriage-worthy man by the time her sister's rehearsal dinner comes around in 30 days. Sam comes up with a plan to use their various contacts at the local airport to learn when Montana's ex-boyfriends are traveling for the holidays so that she can "accidentally" bump into them and discover if any of them have become the right man for her.

The deadline is arbitrary because we know Montana is on a fool's errand. What follows is a series of rendezvous with former flames, but we really only see two of them (Another two are lazily crammed into a montage of her getting dressed and racing between flights as throwaway jokes). The first is Damon Diesel (Trey Songz), who has become a popular recording artist but is entangled with the wife of his manager. That episode ends with Montana on the fire escape as the wronged woman screams and throws stuff at the window.

The next is Langston (Taye Diggs), a politician who takes her out to dinner with a wealthy potential contributor (Ned Beatty) and convinces her that his attempts to make her look subservient to him are just ruse. They are, of course, not. Eventually, the wealthy owner of a hotel (Djimon Hounsou) tempts her with a year-long trip across the globe but only if she denies the deepest desire of her heart (one guess as to how that turns out).

That the movie doesn't even follow through on its premise is curious. It seems that even Talbert is painfully aware of the fact that the plot's comedic foundation is weak. As counterproductive as the relationship between Montana and William is to everything surrounding it, their bond is admittedly sweet (There's also an effective, if on-the-nose, scene late in the movie with her mother), and Patton is effortlessly charming. That's good for her, because it would be a shame to have good effort wasted on something as inconsequential as Baggage Claim.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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