NEW YORK (CBS) "Morning Glory" borrows from the best, but comes nowhere near the gold standard held by the film that inspired it.
When "Broadcast News" hit the big screen back in 1987, it became an instant classic. Not only did it take an ingeniously humorous look at the world of hard news through the eyes of a crackerjack television producer played by Holly Hunter and the love triangle (with William Hurt and Albert Brooks) in which she found herself entrenched , but it also dared to probe further, highlighting the conflict between the candid reality of hard news and its synthesized, ratings-inspired "flashes".
There is no such angst to worry about in "Morning Glory." Director Roger Michell displays an incredibly light hand, compared to the rich tapestry he wove in "Notting Hill." He chooses not to linger or pry too much into the lives of any of his newsroom characters, keeping the film moving along at a brisk pace. Aline Brosh McKenna's ("The Devil Wears Prada") screenplay also avoids getting bogged down too much by what some have called the "dumbing down" of television newscasts to quench the public's thirst for "infotainment".a job at a bottom-of-the-barrel, national morning news program, "Daybreak".
The head of the news division (Jeff Goldblum) isn't sure about hiring her, but with the ratings on the floor, low morale and a revolving door of executive producers, he figures he has little to lose with the spunky (and inexpensive) hire. Fuller has no qualms about descending the ladder from high-brow stories to giving the public and the news division what it wants - glossy entertainment and sky-high ratings.
There is only one obstacle to meteoric success : legendary news veteran Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford). The cranky, curmudgeonly, self-centered anchorman refuses to descend into what he sees as the world of "fluff" journalism and rely on a producer with no national show experience. That doesn't stop the quick-thinking, fast-talking executive producer from trying to do what no one has done before - merge the over-the-top gravitas of the gruff former evening news anchor with the babbling banter and diva-like personality of the current long-time morning host, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton).
A hilarious battle of wits and clashing egos ensues, making for some highly comedic moments, as Becky tries to get the two completely at odds anchors to gel. She even has them practice bantering on set before their live debut together.
Add to this mix a little sparks-flying romance with a smart, handsome producer (Patrick Wilson) on a serious "60-Minutes" style news program.
Rachel McAdams is winning in the lead role, mixing a sweet innocence, with a frenzied personality and an unstoppable drive for success. She comes off much more believable and likeable than Katherine Heigl did in "The Ugly Truth" in a similar role as a suffering TV producer. Harrison Ford is pitch-perfect as the pompous, malcontent who considers his journalistic gravitas sacrosanct. (In a recent interview, he told me he did not fashion his character on any particular morning personality.)
Diane Keaton is wickedly delightful as a sassy former beauty queen turned anchor who loves the limelight, and Jeff Goldlum, too, hits just the right note as a disgruntled news head, whose primary concern is driving up ratings and cutting costs. Look out, also, for two of CBS' very own - Morley Safer and Bob Schieffer- t o make delightful cameos in the Paramount Pictures release. (Paramount and CBS are owned by the same company.)
Where the film falls short is not in the performances, but rather, in the fact that,one can't help wishing for more. More context. More of what is driving each of the players. The relationship between the two sparring anchors is never explored beyond the superficial and would have added a rich layer that was lacking.
Even the relationship between McAdams' character and Wilson's is never advanced beyond being a tool to reinforce her determination to get to the top of the ratings war. The result is a film largely inhabited by stereotypes - personalities one would expect to find in a newsroom, including a do-anything weatherman; a dumb feature reporter who can't spell and only got her job because she's sleeping with the boss and producers on the verge of convulsions, because they can't decide whether to use a male or female baby for their baby food segments.
Still, the film find humor in the chaos and crassness that is the essence of morning newsroom culture, and gives us a chance to spend a weekend afternoon watching the first-time pairing of heavyweights Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton.