Film Review: Morning Glory

Can an overbaked soufflé still be too “fluffy”? 'Morning Glory'’s catch phrase gives new meaning to chick flick.

Fired from her job at a local television station in New Jersey, plucky Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) quickly lands a plum position as executive producer of “Daybreak,” the morning news show of the fictional IBS network in New York. The opportunity seems like a dream come true for our irrepressible 28-year-old, but in reality, “Daybreak” is dead last in the ratings and its future looks bleaker: The staff is dispirited, the facilities are decrepit and the on-air talent despondent, dumb or depraved. Not a problem for our spunky heroine, who shakes up the status quo by hiring legendary news anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), recipient of innumerable Peabodys, Pulitzers and Emmys, to co-anchor the show with veteran host and former beauty-queen Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton).

If you think you know where this story’s going, you’d be as right as Regis and Ripa. Morning Glory is a competent but predictable screwball-ish comedy benefiting from a cast much better than the material they are obliged to work with, not unlike the breakfast programs the filmmakers mean to spoof. Everything about this determinedly upbeat and decidedly sentimental movie goes by the book: Becky’s obligatory romance with office-mate Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), for example, heats up like a bran muffin in the microwave—it’s warm but dry. None of the characters fare better, all of them poorly imagined or undeveloped, although watching them run through their set-pieces provokes enough chuckles to keep us in our seats until the final telegraphed plot twist sends us off into the sunrise.

Writer Aline Brosh McKenna has scripted successful romantic comedies, notably 27 Dresses and The Devil Wears Prada, with Meryl Streep in the role that Harrison Ford plays here; she’s got the chick flick figured out, and Morning Glory will do reasonably well at the box office. Director Roger Michell, who helmed Persuasion, Notting Hill and Venus, comes to film from the London theatre, where he spent six yeas as resident director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which may explain his penchant for the broad gesture. Michell likes his actors to project to the back rows, so that the lovely and likeable McAdams is made to turn up her cuteness until she becomes cloying. Ford, on the other hand, remains fixedly dour throughout the entire film save for the last five minutes, speaking his lines in a fiercely phlegmatic voice or simply scowling at colleagues with mouth open, a choice that suggests incipient senility. Diane Keaton fares best, her character ranging from bitter and cynical to giddy and hopeful, as the situation demands. She’s the only cast member who doesn’t insist on mugging her way through every scene.

Alwin Küchler (Solitary Man) and Mark Friedberg (a regular collaborator with Julie Taymor and Wes Anderson) earn high praise for cinematography and production design, respectively; Morning Glory looks great and feels right, with postcard shots of New York City that require the characters to conduct their business while jogging around the Central Park reservoir or scurrying across Bryant Park. A couple of surprise cameos enliven the action when the movie seems to get lost in these Manhattan moments, and a reasonable running time keep us from growing exasperated with these two-dimensional media types who, come to think of it, may be true to life after all