⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and some language.
Benign but hopelessly dumb, “Baggage Claim” tries to spin the staples of romantic comedy into a mad tea party (its perfect suitor is named Mr. Wright), but lacks the energy and edge.
Paula Patton is likable but lost in this series of stupefyingly silly skits. Playing Montana, a dateless flight attendant with 30 days to snag a fiancé before her younger sister’s rehearsal dinner, she mugs so hard you fear she’ll break something. Tracking her exes’ itineraries, she hops aboard their planes to see if any of her Mr. Wrongs has evolved into a keeper. (Conveniently, everybody always flies on her airline.) Djimon Honsou plays a suave hotel magnate, Trey Songz a hip-hop star, Taye Diggs a congressional candidate (and the butt of the movie’s best joke), and Derek Luke is Patton’s blue-collar childhood sweetheart.
The film is lightly tethered to reality: Montana and one prospect take a balmy yacht cruise on the Mediterranean warmth of Lake Michigan at Thanksgiving. Some of the silliness is intentional but gallingly corny. When the frazzled Montana sighs, “Could this get any worse?” a downpour hits on cue. Stunning as she is, Patton has negligible comedic chops. Most of the laughs go to energetic Jill Scott and underplaying Adam Brody in the stock roles of Montana’s lusty co-worker and gay best friend.
You Will Be My Son
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for brief sexuality and language.
There’s rot in the vineyard setting of this lurid French melodrama. For 11 generations, the De Marseul family has owned a Bordeaux winemaking operation. Lord of the manor Paul (Niels Arestrup, chilling) doubts that his browbeaten son Martin (Lorant Deutsch) is the man to continue that tradition. Paul has his own reasons for treating his heir with contempt, even though the young man is well-suited to bring the operation into the 21st century of high-tech equipment and global export deals. Paul favors Philippe (Nicolas Bridet), the confident, strapping son of the vineyard’s estate manager.
The Oedipal drama turns noxious, legal skullduggery percolates, and the family’s toxic emotional affairs take a lethal turn. It's thin, but mystery lovers will delight in the sophisticated murder scheme, oenophiles will love the Wine Expo atmosphere, and admirers of restrained menace will lose themselves in the icy pools of Arestrup’s eyes.C.C.
⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: PG for thematic elements, mild language and smoking.
The captivating “Wadjda” is the first feature from Haifaa Al-Mansour, and the first Saudi film directed by a woman. Most important, it is an unqualified delight, a sharp, insightful comedy that subversively explores women’s place in Islamic society. Spunky tomboy Wadjda expresses her personality in the very first shots, rocking high-top sneakers with purple laces under her ankle-length school tunic. She listens to pop music in her bedroom, papers the walls with clippings from celebrity magazines, and plays with the neighbor’s son. When he beats her in a bike-vs.-foot race, she vows to get wheels of her own, which is considered an offense against virtue.
Waad Mohammed sparkles as the cheeky troublemaker, who enters a Qur’an study competition in hopes of using the prize money for her bicycle. Reem Abdullah is touching as Wadjda’s traditionalist mother, housebound unless a hired driver is available, and worried that her husband is about to take a second wife. Al-Mansour’s warmhearted humanism and progressive political agenda are a perfect fit. Even the Qur’an passages Wadjda recites slyly chide the forces of religious repression. The final optimistic images suggest that today’s headstrong little girls may reshape and redefine Saudi society. “Wadjda” is an endearing, uplifting delight.C.C.
When Comedy Went to School
⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated but suitable for all.
In this nostalgic show-business documentary, Jerry Lewis recalls his days as an up-and-comer in New York’s Catskill Mountains summer resorts. “It was a laboratory,” he says, a place for comedians to hone their craft in front of demanding audiences. “If they weren’t laughing,” says Sid Caesar, “you’d better shut it down.” The film pays tribute to legendary getaways and the standups who used them as springboards to stardom. There are archival clips of bygone greats (Henny Youngman, Rodney Dangerfield) and interviews with surviving stalwarts. The film is slight at 77 minutes, and not all that funny. Maybe the filmmakers were heeding Caesar’s advice, and cut it short.C.C.