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"BAGGAGE CLAIM"
(2013) (Paula Patton, Derek Luke) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Romantic Comedy: A flight attendant, determined to get engaged before her younger sister's wedding, uses her airline industry connections to "bump into" eligible ex-boyfriends around the country.
PLOT:
Montana Moore (PAULA PATTON) is a thirty-something flight attendant, who is still single due to her admittedly "high standards." She has been willing to wait for her perfect man, even though her mother, Catherine (JENIFER LEWIS), has been married five times and all of her siblings have gotten married. When her youngest sister, college sophomore Sheree (LAUREN LONDON), becomes engaged, Montana vows to find a man who'll marry her before the big day in one month.

After finding out that her current boyfriend, wealthy entrepreneur Graham (BORIS KODJOE), has a wife, Montana 's fellow flight attendant Sam (ADAM BRODY) convinces Montana to use their airline connections to see which of her ex-boyfriends will be traveling by air over the next month so she can just "bump into them" on the different flights and at the different terminals. Their scheme, which flight attendant Gail (JILL SCOTT) thinks is ridiculous, involves security personnel, baggage handlers, and reservations assistants from all over. And they do net three possibilities: Damon Diesel (TREY SONGZ), a record industry producer who is actually the pawn and play-thing of a rich, unstable woman; Langston Jefferson Battle III (TAYE DIGGS), a career politician who wants a trophy wife who will keep her mouth shut; and Quinton Jamison (DJIMON HOUNSOU), a hotel mogul who has been married twice and wants only travel and adventure.

The whole while, Montana maintains a close friendship with William (DEREK LUKE), a blue-collar man she has known since kindergarten. They are the closest of friends and live across from one another in the same building. They might be perfect for each other if it weren't for William being in a long-term relationship and Montana craving someone more dynamic to impress her mother and family.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
I heard a funny thing from an audience member as the end credits rolled on the new "Baggage Claim" the other night. I was walking in front of him and his date, leaving the cinema. She asked him what he thought of the film, and he replied, "I dunno. It was SO predictable and unoriginal." And that got me thinking? How many movies each year are NOT predictable and unoriginal? Think about it. How many times since January have we gotten a movie about a determined cop taking down a ruthless crime lord? How many times each year do idiot characters move into obviously haunted houses? And pretty much each and every month, the theaters get some variation of boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back.

At this point in my time as a film critic, if I start penalizing movies for being predictable and unoriginal, I'm not going to have much fun. So, what I look for - especially in romantic comedies like this one - are things like charm, chuckles, and some good chemistry between the leads. "Baggage Claim" has all three. It's not unpredictable or original. But it's designed to be a light diversion, a feel-good audience pleaser.

A big part of the film's appeal is its lead, Paula Patton. She plays Montana, a thirty-something flight attendant who has very high standards when it comes to men. Her "pickiness" has kept her from walking down the aisle as a bride, even though she has walked down that same aisle as a bridesmaid nine times. When her younger sister in college becomes engaged, Monica's had it with the single life. Her fellow flight attendants, Sam (Adam Brody) and Gail (Jill Scott) hatch a scheme to use their airline and airport connections to flag Monica's various ex-boyfriends around the country as they take to the skies during the holiday season. She'll then just happen to "bump into them" on flights and in terminals. Her goal? Have one of them put a ring on her finger within the 30 days between Thanksgiving and her sister's rehearsal dinner.

This leads to a succession of "chance" meetings with goofball exes, each of whom has one major personality flaw that Montana can't get past. And each time she fails to make a love connection, she goes back home to her Baltimore apartment to commiserate with her best friend from childhood and neighbor, William (Derek Luke). Even though he is in a committed relationship with a live-in girlfriend, we begin to suspect that William is really her Mr. Right.

Well, of course he is! You can tell that's where the movie is going within 10 seconds of seeing the two of them together. So, I can understand where the 30-day time clock that runs throughout the film can be a bit tedious. Writer-director David E. Talbert really doesn't throw in enough twists and complications to make you doubt even for a second that Montana and William are destined to be together.

Another problem with the film is indeed the succession of past boyfriends who Montana reconnects with throughout. To make blue-collar William look even more grounded, mature, and down-to-earth, Talbert makes the other guys vying for Montana's hand unbelievably affluent. One is a Chicago entrepreneur with his own yacht, another is a rising music industry producer, and another is an L.A. hotel mogul. Even her younger sister isn't marrying just her college sweetheart. She's marrying the country's odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Whatever happened to the simple dream of meeting a good doctor or lawyer?

A few tweaks here and there, and this good movie could have been a very good and even great movie. As it is, "Baggage Claim" ultimately succeeds chiefly because Patton is so appealing in the lead role. She is in every scene of this film, and the film doesn't overestimate her appeal like some of those early, terrible rom-coms Kate Hudson starred in that that overestimated her appeal after first hitting in "Almost Famous." She's a real gift for physical comedy AND witty repartee with her leading men.

Is "Baggage Claim" predictable? For sure. But if by predictable you mean girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-gets-boy back, that's still a good kind of predictable. Enough to elicit a 5.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed September 23, 2013 / Posted September 27, 2013


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