Paula Patton fizzes and flounces through “Baggage Claim,” a romantic comedy about a flight attendant who gives herself “30 days and 30 thousand miles” to find some man to “put a ring on it” before her sister’s wedding.
No gesture is too big, no half-hearted punchline too weak to sell with some wide-eyed bit of mugging from the star of “Jumping the Broom.” An actress who showed blessed restraint in films such as “Precious” practically gives herself a hernia trying to freshen this exercise in “Haven’t I seen this before?”
Patton plays Montana, doomed to make poor choices in men, so upset when her younger sister (Lauren London) announces her engagement that she resolves to have a wed-able date for that sister’s nuptials.
Her mother taught her “You’re not a lady until you’re married,” and her mother’s played by Jenifer Lewis, so that’s to be expected.
So Montana’s obligatory gay flight attendant pal (Adam Brody) and curvaceous, oversexed flight attendant BFF (Jill Scott) use their professional connections to hurl Montana in the path of her most promising (and successful) exes by tracking their every airline ticket.
Yeah, it’s illegal and they know it, but she’s worth it.
With the help of ticket sales clerks, baggage handlers and a hilarious TSA security screener (Affion Crockett), Montana makes flight after flight, reconnecting with music producer Damon (Trey Songz), aspiring politician Langston (Taye Diggs), international businessman Quinton (Djimon Hounsou) and others.
All the while, she’s not quite grasping that the fellow she grew up with and now lives right across the hall from (Derek Luke) is her Forever Man.
The mechanics of getting Montana on the flights is the quickest and funniest part of the movie, with all the conference-call plotting with her pals and the tricks her airport screener friend Cedric (Crockett) plays to get her through line quickly, or stall others who need to be held up.
“I have no life,” Cedric announces as he “wands” another passenger, “which gives me all day to ruin yours.”
Writer-director David E. Talbert, in adapting his own book, feels free to put Patton in the same guise – playing 10 years below her age, needy and marriage-obsessed – that she wore in “Jumping the Broom.” Scene after scene had me scratching my head, wondering if I’d seen this movie before. I have. Talbert borrows freely and often in concocting this thinly amusing bit of recycling.
Diggs, in playing a smooth Washington insider angling for a seat in Congress and looking for a submissive beauty to be his bride, feels darned familiar. Yes, his character has fashion sense and dotes on his Yorkshire terrier lapdog. But no, he’s not gay, saving Talbert from the most obvious case of plagiarism (Anthony Mackie in “What’s Your Number?”) here.
The supporting players score the occasional laugh, but hiring the tiresome Lewis to play another brassy mom and making the rest of the cast play cliches and “types” give this romantic comedy too much baggage to overcome.
1½ stars (Out of four)
Starring Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Djimon Hounsou, Taye Diggs and Jenifer Lewis. Written and directed by David E. Talbert, based on his book. 98 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some profanity.