As I watched the first half-hour or so of 'Morning Glory,' the 'Broadcast News'-like romantic comedy about a cellar-dwelling a.m. TV show and the harried producer who tries to save it, one thought continually coursed through my brain: "Rachel McAdams, you are so adorable!" To say I was smitten with the talented young star is an understatement, and her fresh-faced beauty, natural air, and pleasantly perky demeanor not only won me over, but also initially stoked my affection for the film as a whole. Yet before long, characters in the movie began calling McAdams adorable, too, and I realized this blunt assessment of the obvious was symptomatic of the film's lack of subtlety and air of artificiality. Unfortunately, as it progresses, 'Morning Glory' gradually succumbs to the malady that derails most generic comedies - it tries way too hard to provoke laughs, and resorts to cliches, overacting, and unbelievable situations to achieve that end. The solid premise ends up a cartoon and the romance becomes a trite fairy tale. All the while, McAdams remains adorable, but even she seems like she's forcing it by the end.
Much like the heroine of 'Broadcast News,' Becky Fuller (McAdams) is married to her job as executive producer of a local New Jersey morning television show, and she's a faithful spouse, putting aside relationships and outside interests so she can devote all her energy and attention to her career. Cutbacks at the station, however, leave her unemployed, yet her Mary Tyler Moore-like spunk and perseverance land her what seems like the opportunity of a lifetime - heading up and retooling the perennial fourth-place network a.m. newscast, 'Daybreak,' which, according to one staffer, is just like the 'Today' show "without the money, the viewers, and the respect." Becky's task is simply to get the ratings up...but quick. The only trouble is the new host she brings on board, legendary evening news anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), believes morning television is drivel and far beneath his lofty talent. To make matters worse, he and long-standing co-host Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) can't abide each other and both doubt Becky's ability to revitalize the program. Pressure of cancellation increases tension and puts some strain on Becky's burgeoning romance with hunky co-worker Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), who tries to loosen her up.
I certainly expected 'Morning Glory' to poke a lot of fun at the often outrageous world of morning television, where glib, bubbly co-hosts bounce from hard news to lightweight cooking and animal segments without missing a beat. But as spoofs often do, this one goes too far, adopting an overblown, sitcom-like approach that doesn't work so well on the big screen (unless it goes waaaaay over the top like 'Anchorman,' from which 'Morning Glory' shamelessly borrows the bit about the hosts fighting to deliver the program's sign-off). 'Murphy Brown' was a classic show that balanced its zaniness with an acute understanding of the nuts-and-bolts of a network newsmagazine (it's star, Candace Bergen, even once worked on one you may have heard of - '60 Minutes'). 'Morning Glory,' however, often seems more like a screenwriter's idea of what a morning show would be like behind the scenes, and lacks that basic foundation of truth that allows viewers to suspend their disbelief. I know I had trouble suspending mine, and one big reason is the overdrawn, overdone performance of Harrison Ford.
Mike Pomeroy is a cross between Dan Rather and Andy Rooney - a stiff, overly serious, sullen, arrogant curmudgeon - but Ford portrays him in such a broad manner, his character is completely unbelievable on and off air. In addition, Pomeroy's arc is oh-so-predictable, making even his few sensitive moments feel calculated and manufactured. Keaton fares a bit better, but her character is too sketchily drawn to maximize the actress' rare gifts for both comedy and drama. Still, she outshines Ford, who's much better at inserting funny accents into dramatic or action-oriented scenes than trying to craft a full-on comedic performance. Here, his overt mugging and exaggerated gravitas quickly wear thin, and ultimately drag the whole enterprise down.
'Morning Glory' looks so likable on the surface, and its previews and ads falsely raised my hopes that it might be a cut above other films in its class. Though McAdams tries her best to loft it onto a higher plane with a winning performance, the hackneyed screenplay (with themes that too closely mirror one of the writer's previous efforts, the much more polished and entertaining 'The Devil Wears Prada') and pedestrian direction sabotage her efforts, and suck any "glory" out of this wan, unfulfilling comedy.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Morning Glory' comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray case. Upon insertion of the disc, the static menu with music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4, and the dominant audio track is English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. An English Audio Description track is also included for the visually impaired.
With a title like 'Morning Glory,' you might expect the film's transfer to be bright, sunny, vibrant, and bursting with pizzazz. Unfortunately, that's not totally the case. Paramount's 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC rendering of this recent flick is by no means weak, just a bit drab.
The source material is spotless, a thin layer of grain adds warmth and texture, and contrast and clarity are certainly adequate, but the image doesn't possess the depth and dimensionality I craved. The yellow backdrop on the 'Daybreak' set exudes some nice pop, but other hues seem muted. Fleshtones look a little ruddy on occasion, but black levels are strong, background details are sharp, and patterns and fabrics resist any breakup or shimmering. Close-ups show off facial aspects well, but never dazzle, and no banding, noise, or other imperfections creep into the picture.
Much like 'Morning Glory' itself, the transfer is simply undistinguished.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track outputs solid sound, but the film, like most romantic comedies, doesn't provide many showy moments.
Surround activity is faint, and not much stereo separation spices up the track. The various soundtrack tunes nicely fill the room, thanks to good fidelity, and dialogue is always well prioritized and easy to understand. Wide dynamic range keeps distortion at bay, and though the subwoofer doesn't get much of a workout, a rifle shot provides a hefty burst of bass. Details are distinct, but are well mixed into the whole, and David Arnold's music score fits snugly into the audio fabric.
Like the video, the sound doesn't dazzle, but it suits the film and never steals focus from the story on screen.
The extras package is surprisingly weak for a film of this sort.
'Morning Glory' features a high-voltage cast, but only Rachel McAdams generates any real electricity in this spirited but over-the-top look at the frenetic, high-stakes world of morning television. Her dimensional performance is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise tiresome, predictable comedy that rarely lives up to its potential. Good video and audio ease the pain, but a very weak supplemental package drives down the value of the disc. Definitely worth a rental, especially for rom-com aficionados, but those expecting more than fluff will be disappointed.