Quirky Touchy Feely finds humor in holistic healing

by Mark Burger

Baggage Claim is charming fluff about finding true love

Adapted from his bestselling novel by screenwriter/producer/director David E. Talbert, Baggage Claim is a winsome, winning romantic comedy that adroitly sidesteps the genre’s pitfalls while also showcasing a talented and attractive cast.

Chief among them is leading lady Paula Patton, fresh from her tempestuous treachery in 2 Guns, here playing flight attendant Montana Moore. She’s young, intelligent and attractive (indeed!), but she has yet to settle down.

Exasperated at the prospect of being a perennial bridesmaid when her younger sister (Lauren London) gets engaged, Montana vows to find her perfect man in 30 days’ time. (Hey, nobody said Baggage Claim was particularly deep.)

Montana’s mission entails looking up a bevy of old lovers to seeing if the old spark is still there and can be reignited. She’s certainly got her hands full, with an exceedingly handsome line-up of prospective mates includes Djimon Hounsou, Taye Diggs, Trey Songz and Boris Kodjoe. Providing moral support and comic relief are Montana’s best friends and fellow flight attendants Jill Scott and Adam Brody.

All along, however, Mr. Right may be next door in the form of her childhood chum William (Derek Luke), whose last name just happens to be Wright.

Of course, there are complications and misunderstandings to be overcome, but needless to say a happy ending is in store. Baggage Claim isn’t one to deviate from the triedand-true romantic-comedy trappings. The film doesn’t strike many surprising notes, but it smoothly plays its hand in confident fashion, as Talbert puts a happy, unpretentious spin on the proceedings that’s hard to resist.

Patton isn’t quite in her element as a neurotic screwball heroine, but she’s certainly personable, even more certainly attractive, and she’s got the benefit of a sterling supporting cast to spar with. Even better, everyone’s got something to do here: Tia Mowry, Christina Milan, Terrence Jenkins, Jenifer Lewis as Montana’s brassy and much-married mom, Affion Crockett as a zealous TSA inspector, and the always-welcome Ned Beatty as an unwittingly bigoted political fatcat.

Aside from a couple of well-placed (and affectionate) jokes, the issue of race isn’t much of one here – nor does it need to be. Baggage Claim isn’t that kind of movie, anyway. The film is light, breezy and very easy to take on its own terms.

Baggage Claim opens Friday.

Quirky Touchy Feely finds humor in holistic healing

Excellent performances by Rosemary DeWitt and Josh Pais distinguish Touchy Feely, an offbeat comedy about the human condition — and human connections — from writer/director/editor Lynn Shelton.

DeWitt plays Abby, a neurotic massage therapist who tries to maintain a cheerful facade, and Pais plays her brother Paul, a depressed dentist who walks through life in a daze.

Their well appointed, monotonous routines are shaken when Abby suddenly develops a pathological aversion to touching — or being touched — and Paul suddenly develops mysterious healing powers. How each of them deal with these developments forms the crux of this droll, sometimes observant character(s) study. Touchy Feely is in no way a rock-’em, sock-’em comedy; it moves to its own rhythm and at its own pace.

In supporting roles, Ellen Page (as Paul’s daughter), Allison Janney, Scoot McNairy and Ron Livingston bring additional personality to the proceedings. On occasion, Touchy Feely doesn’t seem to quite know where it’s going or how it’s going to get there, but the performances that Shelton has coaxed from her talented cast are simply too good to ignore.

Touchy Feely is scheduled to open Friday in Greensboro.

Luc Besson’s latest: The Family slays together and stays together

Executive producer Martin Scorsese and screenwriter/ director Luc Besson join forces for The Family, an adaptation of Tonino Benacquista’s novel. Although the results fall somewhat short of greatness, the film sustains interest throughout — as much for what doesn’t work as what does.

Robert De Niro stars (yes, once again) as a mobster, this one named Giovanni Manzoni. Having ratted out one family in exchange for new identities in the witness-protection program, he and his family (wife Michelle Pfeiffer, daughter Dianna Agron and son John D’Leo) have had a hard time adjusting to their new lives.

Thanks to the efforts of exasperated veteran agent Tommy Lee Jones, the “Blake” clan has been relocated to the French town of Normandy, still (and best) remembered as the site of the Allied invasion on D-Day in 1944. Now, nearly 70 years later, the action’s about to heat up again.

The clash of cultures — American gangster and French provincial — yields some expected laughs, and the actor appear to be enjoying themselves.

Comparisons to De Niro’s earlier mob comedies Analyze This (1999) and Analyze That (2002), to say nothing of HBO’s landmark series “The Sopranos,” aren’t unwarranted, but The Family has its own (sometimes uneven) identity.

Some of the in-jokes misfire, but others are deliciously inspired.

The film’s stylized, European sensibilities are often at odds with the high-concept narrative, and Besson’s indelicate comedic touch further increases that divide, yet as offbalance (and occasionally overlong) as it becomes, The Family is no less enjoyable as a result, and builds up a surprising level of suspense en route to a predictably blood-splattered climax.

Jones’ trademark hound-dog scowl is used to good if obvious effect here, but there’s no end to the enjoyment of watching him and an equally grizzled De Niro sizing each other up and putting each other down. Against stiff competition from their elders, Agron and D’Leo hold their own, and Pfeiffer, as breathtakingly beautiful as ever, enjoys her best big-screen role in a long while and makes the most of it — and maybe a bit more.

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