Morning Glory: Film Review

An opportunity to update "Broadcast News" falls flat with too much sitcom and not enough sting.

In 'Morning Glory,' a highly caffeinated young producer of a national morning TV show urges her two aging and cranky co-hosts to get outside their comfort zone to reverse their dismal ratings. Too bad this comedy fails to take its heroine's advice because the movie never sneaks away from a comfy sitcom mode.

Turning points and character reveals arrive on cue, a romance blooms, fades and resuscitates as expected, and never once does the movie dare to confront its actual subject: the fate of news in the age of YouTube and TMZ. It merely recycles 1987's Broadcast News with only a single reference to YouTube.

Writer Aline Brosh McKenna, who penned the fashion-world hit comedy The Devil Wears Prada, again explores how a working girl must learn to navigate a volatile environment. But this time, the scribe seems like she's out of her element. The film is as manufactured as ... well, a cheerful morning-news show.

Notting Hill director Roger Michell manages a few laughs and a chuckle here and there, and he certainly has a stellar cast. Rachel McAdams, playing the plucky producer, should attract younger women, and Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton as the contentious co-hosts will appeal to older women. Paramount might see midrange numbers opening week; after that, though,
Morning Glory might be as downward-trending as its fictional show, Daybreak.

It's telling that the film gets many of its best laughs not in behavior or action but from characters' flip descriptions of Daybreak's sorry reputation. Another network's softball team says the producer's boss (Jeff Goldblum) wears hats that declare, "At Least We're Not Daybreak." Ford's Mike Pomeroy, once a superlative news broadcaster and reporter, is, according to a newsmagazine producer (Patrick Wilson), "the third-worst person in the world." McAdams' Becky Fuller later promotes him to No. 1. Meanwhile, Keaton's ColleenPeck is "a former Miss Arizona."

So Becky's mission impossible is to revive a fourth-place morning show or face cancellation. Host Colleen welcomes sharing a desk and couch with the bitter, disgraced -- you never learn why -- newsman Pomeroy the way she might welcome a social disease.

It's toxic between them from Day 1 as themes of style-vs.-substance and entertainment-vs.-news play out. But as even Becky notes, the news department lost that one long ago. So why isn't this movie focusing on what you'd really have to do to get out of a ratings basement?

Oh sure, Becky finally puts the show's hapless weatherman (Matt Malloy, quite wonderful) on a roller coaster and then a terrifying skydive, and Colleen mixes it up with a sumo wrestler. But would that really be outrageous enough?

The Ford-Keaton pairing offers all sorts of possibilities as a latter-day Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn duo. Their acidic quarrels with a dash of love/hate might have been the very thing that would lure viewers from Today. But the film never considers this possibility. Only in one instance does their rancor make it on the air. Pity, for in that fleeting moment, the movie finally has some bite.

The movie never gets as deliciously bitchy as Prada. It has the divas, harried staffers and a tenacious, failure-is-not-an-option heroine. But it runs away from true shocks.

McAdams, Ford and Keaton are all good as far as it goes, but these are mostly one-note performances.

Opens: Wednesday, Nov. 10
Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Matt Malloy, Patrick Wilson
Director: Roger Michell
Screenwriter: Aline Brosh McKenna
Production: Bad Robot
Producers: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk
Executive producers: Sherryl Clark, Guy Riedel
Director of photography: Alwin Kuchler
Production designer: Mark Friedberg
Music: David Arnold
Costume designer: Frank L. Fleming
Editors: Dan Farrell, Nick Moore, Steven Weisberg
Rated PG-13, 110 minutes