Aline Brosh McKenna applies the template of her earlier screenplay for “The Devil Wears Prada” to the world of “Broadcast News” with mixed results in this tale of curmudgeonly anchorman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), who’s enlisted by Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), an ebullient young TV producer, to assume the co-hosting duties on the sort of network morning show he deplores as mindless entertainment rather than news—and is on the verge of being cancelled because of its anemic ratings to boot. “Morning Glory” is basically an elongated sitcom that benefits from Ford’s turn as an acerbic old-timer contemptuous of the turn his profession has taken but otherwise comes across as a pale copy of “Prada.”
As Ford plays him with a stately, surly scowl, Pomeroy is a man who’s achieved iconic status in his profession but can’t compromise his principles to acclimate to the changes within it—a dinosaur who would rather coast along on his “pay without playing” contract rather than submit to the indignity of doing happy-talk news. But his income is threatened when Fuller, a fresh-faced neophyte who’s been hired by cynical exec Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum) to take over the reins of the IBS Network’s last place “Daybreak” program on the basis of her enthusiasm alone, points out that his contract requires him to accept any legitimate assignment or be terminated. She pairs him with long-suffering Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), who’s suffered through a small army of failed co-hosts for years but worries about being outshone by the veteran newsman.
What follows is pretty predictable stuff. Pomeroy refuses to follow Fuller’s game plan, refusing to do anything that would spoil his serious image, even as around him the producer accidentally lucks into a format that leads to higher ratings—turning the show into a stream of jokey, action-fueled bits of business that pander to the audience’s lowbrow taste. The shtick largely centers on doofus weatherman Ernie Applebee (Matt Malloy), who’s filmed closer-up as he rides roller-coasters, skydives and passes out in a jet cockpit, but also involves Peck, who’s game to do silly cooking segments and even dress up in a fat suit to do battle with a sumo wrestler. Meanwhile Pomeroy looks on in disgust, though he contributes to the ratings rise by getting into on-air dissing matches with Colleen.
Where all this is headed is fairly easy to foretell. Pomeroy and Fuller will eventually bond, the way naïve Mary Richards and gruff Lou Grant once did in similar circumstances. But in the end McKenna tries to have it both ways. On the one hand, she contrives a supremely implausible subplot in which Pomeroy shows his continuing mettle as a serious investigative reporter, earning plaudits in the process. But she also has him surrender—at least temporarily—to what he considers the dark side as a means of getting Becky to stay with the show when she’s being offered a cushy job on the top-rated competitor, the “Today” show.
The strength of “Morning Glory” is primarily Ford. He’s played old and grumpy before in the little-seen “Extraordinary Measures,” but here’s he’s much less flamboyant about it, preferring sternly quiet contempt to volatile anger. And he milks every nasty line—the best stuff in the script—for all they’re worth. To be sure, he doesn’t look the part of the respected journalist—his growly voice and solemn on-screen mien would be more likely to scare viewers than earn their loyalty. But he’s easily the one element in the picture that works.
There are others, though, who make positive contributions on a lesser scale. Keaton has fun with her part, as do the coasting Goldblum and John Pankow, who plays Becky’s amiable second-in-command (even if he’s no Stanley Tucci, the equivalent in “Prada”).
But McAdams should have been tamped down a bit by director Roger Michell. She goes the full-bore fluttery, wide-eyed, klutzy route, and the result is more exhaustingly than endearingly goofy. Equally broad is Applebee, whose bits earn far fewer laughs than intended. Part of the problem with both of their characters is that it’s hard to believe that the on-air antics they’re responsible for could actually attract an audience that would stick with the show for more than a few minutes. Would anybody awake at 7am really watch a morning show produced by Johnny Knoxville? Even comedy needs a grounding of plausibility.
On the other hand, there’s Patrick Wilson, who’s so blandly uninteresting as a romantic interest for McAdams that their scenes together—even the ones Michell stages energetically—bring the picture pretty much to a dead halt. It’s especially at those times that one notices that the movie is technically fine, with good use of the Manhattan locations by cinematographer Alwin Kuchler. The score by David Arnold, however, uses the snaps of what sound like snare drums overmuch.
Still, while it’s no “Prada,” thanks to Ford “Morning Glory” is certainly more amusing than most of what passes for Hollywood comedy nowadays. “Morning Adequacy” is more like it.