Friday, September 27, 2013

Movie Review - Baggage Claim

Taye Diggs (left) and Paula Patton
in David E. Talbert's "Baggage Claim"
David E. Talbert is a successful, African-American playwright who has seen numerous productions put to the stage. Most, if not all of those productions have been filmed, but Talbert has written and directed only one other film that was intended for the silver screen. Baggage Claim is his second, cinematic feature, and is an adaptation of his novel of the same name. It's a frothy, cherry pop-flavored, romantic comedy that probably has a lot in common with any number of films, going back decades, dealing with a single woman looking for love and marriage. I was reminded of the more recent Anna Faris vehicle What's Your Number? (2011).

Paula Patton (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Precious) stars as Montana Moore from Baltimore, a flight attendant who has reached a certain age where she's seeing a lot of women around her get married and she isn't but she's eager to do so. It's a very old dilemma and quite an antiquated one. Basically, she's a beautiful, successful woman who can't find a man. In the wake of the feminism movement and over the years as women have striven for equality in the workforce, and as some women have surpassed men in financial status, this complaint has occurred again and again, mostly due to the failings and insecurities of men, but now it's gotten to the point where it's a little annoying.

But, Montana isn't having trouble finding a man because of any particular issue related to this. She herself isn't troubled by any particular issues. She's totally amiable and amenable. Her only problem might be one that is specific to her job. She mainly dates men whom she meets on planes or in airports. Unless it's someone who works for the airline industry, this movie seems to be a 90-minute indictment of men who travel by air. Perhaps, this is Talbert's way of philosophizing about the idea of marriage and how it should involve men who have their feet firmly planted on the ground, one ground, and who establish roots that keep them from venturing across the country or to places in times that require jet propulsion.

Montana's two co-workers and best friends, Gail, played by Jill Scott (Why Did I Get Married), and Sam, played by Adam Brody (The OC), offer her advice and counsel. Gail is a very curvaceous woman with very large breasts, which she sees fit to thrust into any man's face whom she wants. Sam is gay and prefers to use intellect to snatch a man, so he hatches a scheme to have Montana go back and re-visit several of her ex-boyfriends who are still frequent flyers and see if she can re-ignite any sparks that might still be there. Despite Gail and logic's objection, Montana goes along with this scheme, and thus the plot of this movie begins.

Of course, the plot is just a way of padding out the running time of this movie to feature-length because the ending is as obvious as Patton's bright smile of how or with whom she should end up. The majority of it is just a parade of beautiful black men who get to flex a comedic muscle in at least one scene. The exception is Taye Diggs (How Stella Got Her Groove Back and The Best Man) who plays Langston, a black Republican who flies from Atlanta to DC to raise political funding for his campaign. He gets several scenes, which get the most laughs of the entire movie, particularly with his dog Juicy, and a great bit about Tiger Woods.

Derek Luke who co-stars as William Wright, because apparently Talbert likes alliteration, is the other black actor here of note that unlike Boris Kodjoe and Trey Songz is utilized for more than just his chiseled abs and humongous pecs. Luke gets to play a card he hasn't really yet played. He gets to be the cute boy next door with whom any and all who meet him can't help but fall in love. Luke proved he could be adorable and charming in Antwone Fisher but obviously that movie was overtaken by the tragic, real-life drama. Here, Luke sets the table for himself to be a leading man.

Speaking of Antwone Fisher, Jenifer Lewis who co-starred in that film alongside Derek Luke also co-stars here as Montana's mother and she's her typical scene-stealing self, loud, brash and hilarious. Yet, there is a great speech toward the end of the film that Patton delivers, which I wish Talbert would have let be the movie's ending instead of the hackneyed denouement he affixes, unless he just has a thing with watching Paula Patton run.

Montana basically makes an argument, which discourages two people from getting married, essentially standing up for solitude and independence. It was a nice twist to see this woman shoot down the very thing that she was supposedly chasing the entire film. It showed some maturity and modernity in what was essentially an old-fashioned and trite premise. I guess I'm just glad this wasn't another Soul Plane (2004), although I might have accepted an all-black version of The Terminal (2004).

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.

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