“This is the 21st century,” a voice of reason proclaims to the heroine of David E. Talbert’s clunky romantic comedy, “Baggage Claim.” “You don’t need a man to define you!” Very true, and so much for feminism. The rest of the film takes a long, convoluted, predictable, and mostly unfunny route to prove that the opposite is the case.
A route 30,000 miles long, as it turns out. That’s the distance traveled by flight attendant Montana Moore (Paula Patton) in her desperate quest to track down rejected exes to find out if one of them was in fact “the one.” Could she have overlooked the man she would want to spend her life with because of pickiness for perfection? Her search is all the more desperate because her younger sister is getting married, and her tyrannical mom (Jenifer Lewis) is pressuring Montana to do likewise. So she’s got 30 days until her sister’s wedding to find a beau she can bring and show off.
A litany of losers follows, as Talbert takes half the movie to accomplish what Spike Lee disposed of in the brilliant little montage at the start of “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986). The recycled flames Montana chases down have two things in common: They’re fabulously wealthy, and they’re all misogynist clods or infantile narcissists. But she soldiers on, swooping into the hotels and airports of one city after another. And what do you want to bet that true love is right under her nose, in the form of a loyal childhood friend (Derek Luke) who just happens to live in the apartment next door?
Two of Montana’s stereotypical sidekicks and fellow attendants pitch in to help her in her mission and to add comic relief: Gail (Jill Scott), a man-eating big woman with a saucy mouth, and Sam (Adam Brody), the Gay Best Friend. They hate each other (not really!) and boy is it comedy gold when they go at it.
Perhaps some of the movie’s shtick might have worked if Patton had any knack for comedy, or even acting. But her limitations are all the more obvious with actors like Djimon Hounsou in the cast, playing a hotel mogul long smitten with Montana. He finally asks her to travel the world with him so they can have fabulous adventures together. The only problem: no ring. In 21st-century rom-coms, you may not need a man to define you, but it helps to have a decent script.