Sometimes you have to travel 30,000 miles just to appreciate the guy who lives down the hall – or so goes “Baggage Claim,” a movie about a Flight Attendant Barbie type who runs herself ragged chasing romantic prospects while her perfect suitor may as well be waving lighted wands from the runway the entire time. “Girl, open your eyes!” That kind of talk-back is typical of playwright David E. Talbert’s popular urban theater shows, though this watered-down adaptation of his 2003 novel is too worried about attracting white audiences to let its black attitude take off.
The trouble with “Baggage Claim” the movie is that it makes immediately obvious which man Montana (Paula Patton) should wind up with. Back in elementary school, neighbor William Wright (Derek Luke) proposed marriage with a ring retrieved from the bottom of a Cracker Jack box, and now, whenever Montana needs cheering up, good old Mr. Wright is just across the hall, ready to boil a lobster and mix apple martinis until she feels better. But Montana is hopelessly slow on the uptake.
While it’s not unusual to want a man, Montana’s reasons are all wrong: Her altar-obsessed mother (Jenifer Lewis) has been married five times, and she’s been pressuring Montana to get hitched as well. Now that her much younger sister (Lauren London) is engaged, Montana calculates that she has 30 days to find a fiancé of her own or risk irreparably disappointing her mother. And while her latest beau (Boris Kodjoe) has awesome abs, the rest of the package is far from perfect.
That’s where Montana’s boy-crazy best friends, fellow flight attendants Gail (Jill Scott) and Sam (Adam Brody), hatch the scheme to find her a husband in one month’s time: They will track the travel itineraries of all Montana’s exes and arrange for her to bump into them en route, hoping that these men have matured into worthier suitors in the time since they split up.
While it’s nice to see Patton at the center of such a strong black ensemble, Talbert hasn’t quite figured out how to adjust his directing technique from stage to screen. Reduced to making cutesy faces throughout, Patton doesn’t act so much as mug. Perhaps fitting for a tale of missed connections, “Baggage Claim” leaves one wondering what might have been.