* (out of four)
With the year’s worst comedic performance (non-Kevin James division), Paula Patton doesn’t seem to be playing a person in the abysmal rom-com “Baggage Claim.” She’s playing a human-shaped bubble, or perhaps a puppy who switched bodies with its owner. As Montana, a 30-something flight attendant whose relationships, groan, “have never been cleared for takeoff,” Patton (“2 Guns,” “Precious,” Robin Thicke’s wife) has forgotten what normal facial expressions look like. It’s as if our dim-witted heroine was asked, “Why is the sun so hot?” and she’s thinking, “Yeah, totally. It is hot. What’s up with that?”
With her younger sister (Lauren London) suddenly getting married in 30 days, Montana desperately follows the pattern of Anna Faris’ character in “What’s Your Number?” and tries to reconnect with her exes. Because of Montana’s job, however, she does this by using her colleagues at TransAlliance, a cheapo airline that the film still insists is the only one flown by rich executive types, to stalk her old boyfriends (including Taye Diggs and Trey Songz) during their travel. So the pretty little liar dashes through security, and for some reason this over-caffeinated Barbie’s horrific flailing is supposed to be funny.
Fortunately for Montana, she has had zero painful breakups and a host of suitors who all since have become mega-successful but remain available and interested in rekindling things immediately. When not flying around the country like a chicken with her head cut off, she leans on lifelong BFF William (Derek Luke, way too good for this), who lives across the hall and has never made a move because, well, who knows?
No woman in her 30s (or 20s) should be allowed to say “I’m starting to realize that maybe fairy tales don’t come true.” Yet that’s one of the many excruciating lines that dribble from Montana’s mouth in the script from director David E. Talbert (“First Sunday”), adapting his novel of the same name. I’m shocked to discover the book wasn’t written 25 years ago, considering the story’s pathetic reliance on stereotypical, outdated characters like the promiscuous gal pal (Jill Scott), romantically fixated gay friend (Adam Brody) and old-fashioned, marriage-demanding mother (Jenifer Lewis). Talbert uses blatant green screen for backgrounds in driving scenes; in one sequence set but clearly not filmed in Chicago—um, late November isn’t really prime boating weather around here—he doesn’t even put an apostrophe in O’Hare.
The true offense, though, comes from the active dismissal of Gail’s (Scott) welcome insistence that, “It’s the 21st century! You don’t need a man to define you.” In fact, Montana possesses no identity outside of men and her poor condition of always-a-bridesmaid, never-a-bride. She’s a princess pursuing a ring and calling it love. If she weren’t so desperate, maybe she’d see clearly enough to receive an expensive diamond bracelet from Quinton (Djimon Hounsou) and think, “Wait, wasn’t he in ‘Blood Diamond’?”
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