"Baggage Claim" wants to be high-concept, but it does so in small ways. It’s feels less like a movie than an extended pilot for a Fox sitcom.
We’re faced with an attractive B-list star (the distractingly radiant Paula Patton) cycling through her boyfriends with episodic fervor, each one of them getting their own bite-sized portion of the movie. Her laughably archetypal friends -- the outrageously frank plus-size co-worker Gail, her gay other co-worker (Adam Brody, dapper to an almost satirical extent,) and the rest of the merry gang of lunatics who work at the airport -- seem as though they walked off a script for a Fox TV show. The sex is watered down to broadcast network levels.
The pun-title -- a flight attendant with personal baggage, imagine that -- only solidifies the point. It’s funny enough to earn a "worth watching" designation, but you can’t shake the feeling that a commercial break is going to interrupt any second.
Whatever form it resembles, it’s certainly not going to win any awards from women’s groups. The film kicks off with Patton, as the universally loved Montana Moore, deciding that she needs a man in her life so desperately that she gives herself a 30 day deadline to find one. (Her younger sister’s impending wedding -- and her mother’s outrageous demands that she shack up -- may have influenced her decision.) So she and her work buddies devise a plot for some ’sexual time travel’: They’ll use their connections to find out when and where all of Montana’s exes are traveling for the holidays, and she’s "accidentally" bump into them on their flights, convinced that she’s already met her Mr. Right. Sure, it’s a federal offense, they concede -- but why let such a small detail get in the way of their virtuous aim to domesticate an independent woman?
Because this is an archetype-driven would-be TV show, Moore also has a gorgeous platonic male best friend next door -- and because this is that type of movie, his name is Mr. Wright. (No, pointing that out does not constitute a spoiler.) So the machinations of her boyfriend search are little more than a preamble; they’re just a way for this script to kill some screen time on the way to its foregone conclusion.
Luckily, it’s a waste of time that’s filled with a fair few laughs. The setup may be suited to the small screen, but director David Talbert is able to imbue some of his time-wasting set pieces with zany exuberance: one sequence, where Moore is forced to zigzag across a fire escape while one of her would-be beaus (Trey Songz) fends off a ferocious fight from his scorned current-lady-friend (Tia Mowry, overacting to the point of performance art) is hilariously physical and genuinely inspired. It points toward the movie this could have been.
Unfortunately, many of its laughs come in a much safer mode -- from Gail’s man-eating, or from Moore’s mother’s witty condescension. Those moments end up outweighing the moments of inspired humor, and screwball loses out to sitcom.