Would it be an unforgivable pun to call “Baggage Claim” a mixed bag?
This breezy, cheesy, wildly uneven romantic comedy, directed by David E. Talbert and adapted from his novel, stars the gorgeous Paula Patton as Montana, a flight attendant who’s staring at the big 3-0 and is desperate to get married. And from that offensive premise, “Baggage Claim” only gets more retro: In her ridiculously strenuous efforts to get a ring on it, she puts herself through all manner of pain, humiliation and illegality in order to accidentally-on-purpose bump into a series of ex-boyfriends as they take holiday flights between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (The illegality comes in when Montana’s besties, played by Adam Brody and Jill Scott, access the unwitting gentlemen’s flight information, the better for Montana to ambush them while looking her best.)
There’s so much wrong with “Baggage Claim” — from its outdated story line and similarities to the dreadful “What’s Your Number” to Talbert’s clumsy, flat-screen directing — that it’s all the more surprising when things go right. But it would be unfair to deny that it doesn’t provide its own modest, sometimes outright hilarious, pleasures.
Patton, who starred in the rom-com “Jumping the Broom” a few years ago, here adopts an annoyingly wispy, little-girl persona. But she’s sensational to look at, as are the scrumptious actors who play her line of leading men, an ensemble that includes no less than Taye Diggs, Djimon Hounsou, Boris Kodjoe and Derek Luke, who delivers an appealingly low-key performance as Montana’s childhood friend and current neighbor, William.
Anyone with a heartbeat will know where “Baggage Claim” will end up (or, more precisely, with whom). Anyone with a brain won’t believe a word of it. Still, there are some genuinely amusing moments along the way, most of them courtesy of Brody and Scott, who add spicy dollops of naughty humor to the otherwise gratifyingly un-raunchy proceedings. And Patton gets at least two fabulous jokes in, one regarding Tiger Woods, the other having to do with partisan politics.
By the time “Baggage Claim” arrives at the final set piece — an antic, harried chase to the Baltimore airport — even the most cynical and discerning viewers may well find themselves fighting every fiber of their being and still succumbing to the movie’s infectious sense of airheaded fun.
Glossy, flossy and blithely secure in its own cheerfully fake worldview, “Baggage Claim” bypasses the intellect entirely, happy to satisfy on a silly, screwball, wish-fulfillment level. It could have been so much better, but for racking up undemanding escapist flyer miles, it’ll do.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains sexual content and some profanity. 93 minutes.