It’s a star-studded movie and you tend to fall in love with the cast. But the whole production compels you to chose between a good plot and a good laugh. If you want the former, Baggage Claim isn’t for you. But if you just want a good laugh after a stress-filled day in Ibadan, Nigeria, then get popcorn handy, stretch your legs and relax your brain for the entire duration of the movie because you don’t really need it for this one.
If you are looking for logic, realism, or well, romance, you have very little chance of finding any of that in “Baggage Claim”. There are tropes built upon tropes, implausibility heaped high into the night sky, and any “romance” to be found is of the fifth-grade variety. But comedy? Yes, that’s in here!
There are laughs to be had in great multitudes, with writer/director David E. Talbert packing in far more coherent and hard-hitting punchlines.
Story-wise, “Baggage Claim” is quite similar to “What’s Your Number?”. The similarities are uncanny: the “a little too friendly” next-door neighbor, the overbearing mom, the younger sister getting engaged and the scramble to find all of the main character’s exes to see if one if them is – after all this time – a perfect love match.
Paula Patton plays Montana Moore, our main character; she’s a flight attendant who has enlisted the (admittedly, illegal) help of her fellow airline industry workers to track down her former flames. She plans to ambush her exes on flights, doing the old, “fancy seeing you here!” number. The somewhat muddled goal is to find a date for the rehearsal dinner, because going stag to her younger sister’s pre-wedding festivities would be a bridge to too far for young Montana.
“Baggage Claim” can stand proudly beside its predecessors in beating dismal story lines into the ground, no argument there.
Now logically, as “Baggage Claim” is clearly not of this world, audiences looking for realism or romance will find themselves frustrated. There are clear gaps in the editing, items not really tied up, or hinted at and then never mentioned again, as if they simply ran out pens and spreadsheets to keep track of everything.
To say certain romantic moments are forced is a wild understatement, you can almost see the cue cards, just off stage, reading “now lean in for kiss”. This isn’t so much Patton’s problem, though she’s not helping matters, as it is a foundational issue of the story transpiring just as anyone who has seen a movie prior would expect. There is nothing resembling complexity or nuance, at any point, in terms of where this is all headed, and if we were grading solely on story this would be a complete disaster.
Luckily for “Baggage Claim”, we’re not, because everything else that happens, all the attempts at levity and laughs, pretty much work throughout. Where the comedy is concerned, there are great performances, admirable efforts all over the place. Montana’s flight attendant friends, played by Adam Brody and Jill Scott, are great every single time they’re onscreen together. Jenifer Lewis, as Montana’s “married five times” mom, is routinely hilarious.
The situations, even when contrived, even when all your intellect is stacked against, surprise with daring forays into ha-ha town. There are knowing jokes about the cheesiness of the story itself such as, “Did you really think line that was going to work?” and solid callbacks like, “You might want to come over here, I think the King of Zamunda has come to visit!” These lines, seemingly out of nowhere, completely freshen up an otherwise drab offering.
Truly, after enough of these laughs, you’ll find yourself caring less about whatever romantic mess they’re currently peddling, far more interested in the next attempt at silliness.
Ultimately, “Baggage Claim” is devoid of anything nearing an innovative plot, and it’s fairly simple, only five minutes in, to predict who Montana will end up with, making the next eighty minutes rather academic.
Real romantic comedies, the ones we remember, are able to play both sides of this paradigm with something approaching elegance, pivoting on a dime, using laughs to augment the central characters, making the serious elements all the more profound. “Baggage Claim” can’t pull that level of “good” off, but perhaps you’ll find entertainment in the constant stream of amusements? That’s the coin flipped high into the in the air here, the need for comedy on one side, the yearning for love stories on the other, spinning round and round until you decide to call it.
Check out the trailer below