Writer-director David E. Talbert, working from his own novel, casts Paula Patton as an airline flight attendant — considering how antediluvian the attitude toward women is in this film it’s surprising she’s not called a stewardess — who embarks on a “madcap” 30-day, 30,000-mile search for Mr. Right.
No one questions why a smart, beautiful and together woman so desperately needs a man to define who she is until the final reel. By then, it’s too late for such tacked-on consciousness raising.
That needed to happen at the very beginning where Talbert might have winked to his audience he had a brand new take on such 1950s rom-com nonsense.
Turning an old throwback like this on its head — giving the woman a compelling reason to claim a man in a month or subverting the sub-genre by, say, her fleeing from such men — might have made a smart comedy. This is a very dumb one.
For no other reason than she is the last female in her family to land a bridegroom when her baby sister announces her wedding in a month’s time, Montana (Patton) is sent on this excruciating wild-goose chase by her two best friends, fellow flight attendants Gail (Jill Scott overplaying her zaftig figure) and Sam (Adam Brody).
Their crackpot scheme is for her to undertake a cross-country tour of her exes, former boyfriends still in her address book, whenever they board any flight in the U.S.A.
This requires the illegal cooperation of a reservation clerk, air miles personnel, TSA inspector and baggage handler — breaking so many NSA regulations it’s hard to keep track — plus the absolute certainty all those ex-boyfriends will fly her airline only.
Needless to say, in every case you immediately see why these exes should remain so. The smooth player (Boris Kodjoe), the duplicitous music mogul (Tremaine Neverson), the controlling politician (Taye Diggs) and the playboy hotel magnate (Djimon Hounsou) all betray their true selves at first glance.
Meanwhile her soul mate (Derek Luke) lives right across the hall from her in a Baltimore apartment building. Why do both ignore the obvious? Well, he’s got this live-in girlfriend, see, but she’s not always faithful to him and … well, you figure it out.
And, believe me, you will, which puts a viewer ahead of the story at every turn.
The stiff writing does favors to none of the actors. Patton, an attractive actress who perhaps did her best work in “Precious,” displays little affinity for physical comedy and barely enough for any other kind. To be fair, there’s nothing much to play here.
The actors playing the two best buddies tend to go overboard while all the dates are bland — and that includes her impossibly good soul mate. Veteran Jenifer Lewis shows flair as Montana’s overbearing mother while another veteran, Ned Beatty, has a thankless role as the politician’s big-bucks backer.
The unconvincing comedy takes place in glossy upscale settings befitting the jet-set motif.
Opens: September 27, 2013 (Fox Searchlight)
Production: 260 Degrees/Sneak Preview Entertainment
Cast: Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Taye Diggs, Jill Scott, Boris Kodjoe, Tremaine Neverson, Adam Brody, Jenifer Lewis, Lauren London, Christina Milian, Djimon Hounsou, Ned Beatty
Director/screenwriter: David E. Talbert
Producers: Steven J. Wolfe, David E. Talbert
Executive producers: Lyn Sisson-Talbert
Director of photography: Anastas Michos
Production designer: Dina Lipton
Music: Aaron Zigman
Costume designer: Maya Lieberman
Editor: Troy Takaki
PG-13 rating; 97 minutes