By NEIL POND
Hollywood veterans Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton may be the most recognizable faces in “Morning Glory.” But this new romantic comedy built around a struggling network-television morning show really belongs to Rachel McAdams, who shoulders most of the comedy and all the romance.
McAdams plays Becky, the perky, young, anxious-to-prove-herself TV producer hired to turn around the fortunes of a fictitious New York wake-up program called “Daybreak,” which trails a distant fourth in the ratings behind “Today,” “Good Morning America” and---as another character tells her---”whatever they’re calling the crap they’re doing over at CBS.”
She quickly discovers that the hardest part of the job is handling her contentious co-hosts, prickly former beauty queen Colleen Peck (Keaton) and cranky veteran newshound Mike Pomeroy (Ford).
The “Daybreak” ratings aren’t the only things in the dumpster. So is Becky’s love life---until, that is, she meets a charming, hunky news reporter (Patrick Wilson) who offers her a passionate respite from her chaotic, high-pressure job.
McAdams is the “fresh face” here, but she isn’t exactly a Hollywood newbie. Many viewers will remember her breakout role in “The Notebook” (2004) or as Sherlock Holmes’ girlfriend opposite Robert Downey Jr. in last year’s box-office reincarnation of the Scotland Yard sleuth.
Watching McAdams juggle all the pieces provides much of the laughs, but both Keaton and Ford get some positively hilarious traction as Colleen and Mike clash on the air and compete for the spotlight. Jeff Goldblum is deliciously dry as the network exec who hires Becky, spelling out in no uncertain terms the early-morning mess that has become her responsibility.
An underlying theme in the movie is the long battle between news and entertainment on the TV airwaves. Mike, whose hard-hitting journalism career includes pulling Colin Powell out of a burning helicopter and wiping down Mother Teresa’s fevered forehead during a cholera epidemic, thinks morning television is nothing but sugarcoated puffery. He can’t even bring himself to say the word “fluffy.”
Colleen, on the other hand, is all smile over substance, giving herself to whatever stunt the TV moment offers---kissing a frog, donning a fat suit to bump bellies with a sumo wrestler, bustin’ a move with special guest rapper 50 Cent.
In one heated hallway encounter, Mike equates “Daybreak” to the fattening, junk-food doughnut he’s just plucked off the food-service table. Becky picks up a prop of her own to counter him: a box of bran flakes, which she waves in his face to make her point that viewers don’t want Mike’s husky, high-fiber hard news for breakfast every morning.
It’s fitting that Mike finally comes around to making something that’s both fluffy and nutritious, a frittata, for a “Daybreak” cooking segment. One of the things he likes about it, he notes, is that you can use just about any ingredients you’ve got handy.
Throw in some of this, slice up a little of that, whisk it around, turn up the heat and voila, you’ve got a morning meal---or a morning TV show like “Daybreak,” with a couple of comically combustive co-hosts, a bunch of colorful odds ’n’ ends cohorts, and a spunky young executive producer just out of camera range trying keep it all from bursting into flames.