"Morning Glory," about a sunny, network morning show, feels like ... well, a sunny, network morning show.
It's glossy, moves quickly enough and has a few enjoyable personalities. Maybe the intermittent laugh. But afterward you realize it tried to cram a whole lot of vapid stuff into one compact time frame, and despite all the hard work that must have taken place behind the scenes, you haven't really learned anything and you're no better for having watched.
The hardest-working of all has got to be Rachel McAdams as plucky, driven Becky Fuller, a young producer who has dreamed of working at the "Today" show since she was 8 years old. Instead, Becky is asked to help keep the fourth-place "Daybreak" alive. The network's head of news (Jeff Goldblum) isn't thrilled about hiring her, but no one else has stuck around for more than a year or so, so he decides to give her a shot.
Or perhaps the sheer force of her perkiness wears him down. The fast-talking McAdams is on overdrive the whole time, a whirlwind of messy hair, flying papers and random thoughts. She's constantly checking her BlackBerry and always has one eye on the television in case news breaks. Single-minded news junkies like Becky absolutely exist in the real world — per capita, they're not the most enjoyable people to be around — but McAdams' unflappable cuteness makes the character more tolerable than she might have been in another actress' hands.
But director Roger Michell's film, from a script by "The Devil Wears Prada" writer Aline Brosh McKenna, falls into that annoying movie shorthand of softening her appearance and demeanor once she falls for a fellow producer. And who could blame her? He's played by Patrick Wilson. So all of a sudden, she finds time to style her hair in delicate waves and acquires a softer, more feminine wardrobe. Trouble is, the relationship never feels plausible and the two barely have any chemistry. The obligatory obstacle to their ultimate happiness comes out of nowhere, and when they do get back together (no big shocker there), it's hard to care.
It's also hard to care about the show's co-anchors because they're so two-dimensional. Diane Kenton plays the breezy Colleen Peck, a former Miss Arizona who's been there forever and knows her way around a fashion segment. Harrison Ford plays the condescending Mike Popery, formerly the network's globe-trotting main anchor whom Becky has recruited through a contractual loophole to shake things up. (She'd fired the previous male host, played with intriguing sleaziness and not nearly enough screen time by Ty Burrell of "Modern Family.")
Now, Mike's relegated to the early-morning news that's fluffy — a word he famously refuses to say because it's beneath him. Becky's task is to get him to do something beyond reading the few hard-news scripts at the top of the show. A cooking segment, maybe. Ford responds throughout with a monotone grumble. The few scenes in which Colleen and Mike allow their simmering off-camera bitterness toward each other to explode on live television make the movie briefly burst to life, but "Morning Glory" never makes the most of this tension.
Michell's film has its moments and it makes Manhattan look radiant, but it rarely finds the charm of his best ("Venus") and best-known work ("Notting Hill"). It also fails to say anything insightful about the increasing encroachment of mindless entertainment into serious news; the phenomenon is a mere annoyance to old-school, curmudgeonly Mike.
"Morning Glory" does get newsroom culture somewhat right, though, something so many other movies tend to get wrong. You've got your morning meetings with their mix of chaos and crass humor, the misfits who often populate the production side. There's a vaguely amusing running gag involving random guests seen in the background as they wait to go on set. But if heavyweights like Ford and Keaton can't save this show — or this movie — bit players don't stand a chance.