Monday, February 3, 2014

DVD/Blu-ray: Insulting, outdated "Baggage Claim" trots out clichés without irony

Baggage Claim (2013)
96 min., rated PG-13.

At the bare minimum, a predictable, lightweight romantic comedy can be cute fluff, as long as it gives us likable characters and bucks formula just enough. How offensive, then, when the attractively cast "Baggage Claim" comes along as the type of lame, puny-brained, artificially contrived and unironically insipid "chick flick" that insults the female audience it caters to, doing its leading lady no favors and treating everyone with the intelligence of an almond. The entire conceit here exists on Planet Yeah Right, perpetuating the sad notion that another gorgeous, lip-glossed woman with a job, her own apartment, and a personality is a dateless, unmarried and incomplete loser (and this comes from someone who didn't hate "27 Dresses"). This flighty, prefabricated product of weightlessness is so out of date that it might have made more sense in the Rock Hudson-Doris Day era (maybe even prehistoric times) and it's so out of touch that it could use a self-help book. 

Being a Chicago flight attendant hasn't allotted perky Montana Moore (Paula Patton) a lot of time for love. Her demandingly shrill mother (Jenifer Lewis) has been married five times and Montana's latest relationship with the perfect man (Boris Kodjoe) ends after realizing he already has a family. Once her younger sister (Laura London) announces her engagement, Montana can't show her face at the rehearsal dinner in 30 days without a manheck, she needs a husband! With the help of best friends and fellow flight attendants Gail (Jill Scott) and Sam (Adam Brody), they hack the airport system and track down all of Montana's eligible ex-boyfriends, who all happen to be affluent, built and handsome. To clarify, when one of her exes conveniently flies her airline, Montana will rush to the airport to fake a casual run-in and hopefully rekindle the fire, Federal Aviation Administration regulations and airport security be damned. Oh, but her high school buddy William Wright (Derek Luke) lives right across the hall and just might be…Mr. Right? Who knew he was there all along? If you've seen a movie before, connect the friggin' dots.

"First of all, this is the stupidest idea ever" might be the most honest line spoken in the entire movie, which is an apt description of the movie itself. The 2011 Anna Faris vehicle "What's Your Number?" by way of every forced, cutesy, crushingly hackneyed rom-com, "Baggage Claim" is so tone-deafly written and pushily directed by David E. Talbert (2008's "First Sunday"), who's adapted his self-penned book. Even on the level of a wacky sitcom, a cartoon, or a wish-fulfillment fairy tale this side of "Sex and the City 2," the plastic premise cannot be bought into for a second and checks off every threadbare genre cliché with one foot in the grave. Yes, Montana might be a flight attendant, but the "Last-Minute Sprint to the Airport" is no excuse, especially since it's the sticky-sweet cherry on the melted sundae after the "Just the Friend, Never the Boyfriend" cliché, the bad-date montage, the epiphanic speech and a clothing montage have reared their ugly heads. With unfunny slapstick for laughs and one-dimensional stick figures figuring in as characters, there's little to no wit, no edge, and zero creativity. Worst of all, it's almost unfathomable how Talbert sends out such a moronic, ass-backwards message that women will only be happy as arm candy and then pulls a 180 to finally cheer on female independence as if it's just been discovered.

The stunningly radiant Paula Patton looks like a rose and likably smiles her way through this thoroughly forgettable, cheeseball piffle. She's an appealing presence, even when her Montana acts like a desperate, self-involved dingbat who plays the woe-is-me card and gestures wildly when fluttering around the airport with her rolling suitcase as if she never used one before, but the actress is in need of a script that matches her charm and talents. Like any normal, self-respecting woman with a functioning brain and her priorities straight, Montana snoops around one boyfriend's mansion at night and hides in a trash can, which could be a metaphor for Patton starring in this movie. Even so, Patton has nearly every handsome black man in the biz throwing himself at her, so what's a girl to do? Of the exes, there's Trey Songz, as a slick record producer; Djimon Hounsou, as a suave hotel magnate; and Taye Diggs, as a smug Republican politician. Of course, most of them are dogs, and the other women in the cast are written as either cheaters (Christina Milian) or nutcases (Tia Mowry-Hardrict). As for Adam Brody and Jill Scott as the swishy Sam and sassy, oversexed, cleavage-y Gail, they are like Montana's Jack and Karen (TV's "Will & Grace"), throwing off vaguely amusing quips and adding the most life. For all her cranberry-flavored condom giveaways and on-cue sass, Gail actually speaks sage advice, "It's the 21st century. You don't need a man to define you." Does Montana really need that kind of reminder spelled out to her in 2013?

If it's deserving of any compliments whatsoever, the film is frantically paced, so at least it's all over quickly, and Little Mix's poppy "Wings" on the soundtrack adds a dollop of energy to the umpteenth montage. "Baggage Claim" might be too innocuously square to be the nadir of the genreand will probably be catnip to undiscriminating fans of anything that attempts to blend romance and comedy—but it's incredibly regressive for the times. More's the pity to see such pretty, charismatic people hamstrung by dumbed-down material that has no shame in recycling the same-old, same-old and doesn't think too highly of anyone. Come to think of it, "Baggage Claim" doesn't think at all.


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