Years ago on The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson, after noting how more and more African-American actors were appearing in television commercials, quipped that it was nice to see that black people get hemorrhoids too. That joke pretty much explains David E. Talbert's Baggage Claim, a standard-issue rom-com that could have starred Kate Hudson, Sandra Bullock, or Sandra Oh instead of its actual lead, the appealing Paula Patton, and barely a word of the script would have needed to be changed.
Patton plays Montana Moore, a soon-to-be-30-year-old flight attendant who lives in an apartment across the hall from her best friend since high school, William (Derek Luke), and his girlfriend (Christina Milian). Montana's five-times-married mother (Jennifer Lewis) is forever haranguing her oldest daughter that she needs to find a man and get married, and the pressure increases even more when her younger sister Sheree (Lauren London) gets engaged to a well-regarded football player.
In order to avoid the humiliation of going stag to her sister's engagement party, Montana sets her sights on finding an eligible bachelor who might make good marriage material; to that end, she gets help from her gay friend Sam (Adam Brody) and her fat and sassy pal Gail (Jill Scott), both of whom are co-workers. It seems that many of the people who work for the airline owe Sam favors, so the three compile a list of Montana's ex-boyfriends and set up a system in which she'll be on any flight they happen to take in the next 30 days.
As ludicrous and -- let's just be honest about this -- stupid of a gimmick as this is, an entertaining genre film can withstand an unbelievably unrealistic premise if the characters are smart. Unfortunately, Talbert, who adapted this movie from his own novel, telegraphs the ending so that we're always aware of exactly how this story is going to wrap up. Indeed, the true love of her life is so obvious that the audience grows frustrated with Montana for being clueless for so long.
Paula Patton is a talented actress, and here she flashes a great smile and displays an ability to play stock situations with an immediacy that doesn't make you upset that you're watching them, even if she can't elevate the clichés into anything special. The movie clicks along from one predictable story beat to the next, getting a couple of chuckles along the way from Brody and Scott, as well as Taye Diggs as Langston, an ambitious politician who wants to turn Montana into, as one character puts it, the perfect "running mate."
The final man Montana arranges a meet-cute with is Quinton, played by the always authoritative Djimon Hounsou, and here the film finally gives her -- and the audience -- a viable option. He doesn't want marriage; he wants to give her a life of carefree globe-trotting. He can bathe her in jewels and they can see the world, and Hounsou is such a commanding screen presence that Montana's desire to take time to think about it seems utterly practical. However, the movie then downshifts for a final act that hits all of the appropriate plot points, before ending with one last mad dash to the airport so she can embrace the man she's chosen.
The performers all wring what they can from this lackluster script, but the final result is a dumb if pleasant film that proves that pedestrian rom-coms can happen to any gifted young actress, regardless of race, creed, or color.