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An excess of tired cliches in Paula Patton’s ‘Baggage Claim’

DjimHounsou plays one ex-boyfriends revisited by Montan(PaulPatton) “Baggage Claim.”

Djimon Hounsou plays one of the ex-boyfriends revisited by Montana (Paula Patton) in “Baggage Claim.”

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‘baggage claim’ ★★

Montana Paula Patton

William Derek Luke

Langston Taye Diggs

Quinton Djimon Hounsou

Graham Boris Kodjoe

Fox Searchlight presents a film written and directed by David E. Talbert, based on his book. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sexual content and some language). Opens Friday at local theaters.

Updated: October 28, 2013 6:49AM

Sometimes you have to go really, really, really far out of your way just to discover that what you were looking for was right across the hall.

Yep, right there across the hall, practically jumping up and down and shooting off flares, painfully obvious to everybody but you, because you’re too busy jetting around the country stalking your ex-boyfriends and hoping one of them will have magically transformed into a potential perfect husband.

That’s the essentially ridiculous situation that gorgeous, successful yet tragically unmarried flight attendant Montana (Paula Patton) finds herself in during this mildly diverting but entirely predictable strictly-by-the-numbers romcom. Adapted from his own novel by writer/director David E. Talbert (“First Sunday”), a successful theatrical writer-director-producer in the Tyler Perry vein, “Baggage Claim” does, to its credit, raise the question of whether a not a woman actually does need a man to be completely happy. Raises it, ponders it for two seconds, then gets busy with the frenzied husband hunt.

Montana, 30, learns that her younger sister has become engaged. Now doubly pressured by their matrimony-obsessed mother (Jenifer Lewis) and determined to avoid old-maid status, Montana vows to score a fiancé before little sister’s rehearsal dinner — 30 days away.

Montana’s confident at first because she already has her sights on a hot prospect with a shaved head, chiseled abs and a seven-figure salary (Boris Kodjoe). When the hottie turns out to be a nottie, though, she’s forced to agree to a desperate plan B dreamed up by her comic-relief BFFs (Jill Scott and Adam Brody). Working with other airline pals, they will track the travel plans of Montana’s old exes and conspire to book her on flights with them over the next month. Illegal? Immoral? Pish-posh! We’re talking true love here!

Speaking of which, while all of this is going on, William Wright (Derek Luke), Montana’s oldest, dearest, bestest friend, the man who knows her better than anyone in the whole wide world and is a major dreamboat too, is observing from across the hall with a tolerant, bemused smile. You noticed, by the way, that the guy’s name is Mr. Wright? That’s lost on Montana. To her, he’s just her best bud and he’s taken, anyway —by a remarkably temporary-looking girlfriend named Taylor (Christina Millian). It should be obvious to everyone that Taylor is going to screw things up or get hit by a bus or something very soon. Not to our girl, though.

No, she flies frantically from Baltimore to L.A. to New York to Philadelphia to wherever, whenever, rekindling old relationships with a series of outrageously attractive, rich and successful old boyfriends: a record producer (Trey Songz), a congressional candidate (Taye Diggs), even an international businessman and hotelier (Djimon Hounsou). And she ultimately finds something wrong with each of them: too bogus, too controlling, too ... unwilling to pop the question. And she continues to turn a blind eye to her soul mate across the hall while we tear our hair in frustration.

Patton lightens the aggravation, for the most part, by combining a likable presence with a knack for physical comedy and a willingness to hop into dumpsters, etc., as needed, making the most of the script’s meager opportunities for comedy.

The night I saw “Baggage Claim” however, the biggest laugh lines by far came from the audience. After the fabulously wealthy and handsome hotelier (Hounsou), for example, spends an entire night wooing Montana on the roof of one of his hotels, and offers to take her with him on a romantic yearlong trip around the world with every imaginable luxury, but without benefit of a wedding ring, demure Montana is at a loss for words.

But not the lady a few rows behind me. “Day-um!” she shouted. “Take me!”

Sometimes, demure just doesn’t cut it.

Bruce Ingram is a Chicago free-lance writer.

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