Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) is a plucky, newly hired workaholic producer for “Daybreak,” the lowest-rated national morning TV show. The show is so bad that it’s a punch line in TV land – a sick joke.
“Morning Glory” is about how Rachel pulls the show out of the basement by, you guessed it, dumbing it down ever further into imbecility. This might be an acceptable premise for a comedy except for one thing: The filmmakers endorse the imbecility. “Morning Glory” is a tribute to low standards and high ratings – just the sort of thing Hollywood can get firmly behind.
I realize this movie is, essentially, cotton candy, but it has an acrid aftertaste. Becky, a human whirligig epoxied to her BlackBerry, is portrayed as a vivacious sprite. Her anything-for-ratings ambition is supposed to be, well, cute.
Her big move comes when she pairs the morning show’s longtime, long-suffering host Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) with curmudgeonly blowhard Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), the network’s resident hard-news legend who has been sitting out his contract after being shifted out of his evening anchor spot. These cohosts despise each other. While Colleen is willing to don a fat suit and tussle on air with a sumo wrestler, the grave-faced Mike, who has won every journalism award known to man, won’t even do one of those obligatory cooking-class segments. (He won’t even utter the word “fluffy.”)
Instead of standing up for the type of journalism that Mike represents, director Roger Michell and screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”) denigrate him as a scowly relic from a distant era. The film’s payoff arrives on cue when, grudgingly, inevitably, he comes around.
Keaton at least looks as if she’s having fun as the alternately daffy and hard-edged former Miss Arizona who’s seen it all. Ford, however, keeps himself in a constant state of humorless high dudgeon, and his Scrooge routine gets very old very fast. He acts like someone who never told a joke – or heard one.
“Broadcast News,” of course, is the template for this movie, but a bit of “Network” might have been welcome, too. The dismal dumbing-down that Paddy Chayefsky's “Network” predicted for the future of TV has been more than fulfilled, but, whereas Chayefsky was mad as hell about it, the folks behind “Morning Glory” are just fine with it.
Is it fair to judge a dippy romantic comedy by its ideas – or lack of them? I think it is, if, as is the case here, the ideas, such as they are, are central to the comedy. “Morning Glory” isn’t targeting the dumbing down of TV news. It’s pandering to the audience that craves the dumbness. Grade: C- (Rated PG-13 for some sexual content, including dialogue, language, and brief drug references.)