Rachel McAdams (The Notebook and Wedding Crashers) stars as Becky Fuller, a talkative and neurotic, morning TV producer in New Jersey. In terms of speech and behavior, she's very much like Ally McBeal. I never noticed before, but McAdams even looks a little like Callista Flockhart, which is ironic being that Harrison Ford also stars in this semi-romantic comedy.
Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars) co-stars as Mike Pomeroy, a pompous, arrogant and bitter, news anchor, comparable to Dan Rather but only way grouchier.
Diane Keaton (Annie Hall and The Godfather) also co-stars as Colleen Peck, the morning TV diva who's sassy but who's more open to doing anything for entertaining TV.
With the help of Joss Stone on the soundtrack, Becky becomes the showrunner of a morning program called "Daybreak," which is described as being like "The Today Show" but without the money, viewers or respect. Colleen already co-anchors "Daybreak."
Becky hires Mike, thinking he might bring respect or at least some gravitas to the airwaves of the last-place, fictional network, IBS. Becky puts Mike in the chair next to Colleen, thinking it will make things better. However, she quickly learns that Mike is just as much of a diva as Colleen, and he won't read the frivolous or lighthearted stories that define morning TV and that define the show "Daybreak."
This generates a debate that runs through the movie and it revolves around the state of broadcast television. Becky's show is under threat of cancellation. The network executive, played sardonically by Jeff Goldblum, tells Becky that she has to get the show's ratings up.
Becky finds that doing sensational things live on-air like riding a roller coaster or getting the weatherman's ass tattooed raises the ratings. Becky proceeds to stage ridiculous stunt after ridiculous stunt. Mike doesn't like this. He prefers to stick to doing serious news only, and not silly stuff merely to increase viewers.
Many scenes, therefore, have Becky and Mike at odds. As you watch their arguments, you wonder what should the news be. Some might refute that these morning shows are even news programs to begin with, but most people do see them as such, so you ask. Should the morning show be serious news or should it be sensational stories? Should the show be fierce or should it be frivolous?
I suppose there is a balance that could be reached. Becky and Mike become stubborn in their extremes and eventually must come to a compromise, but I would have preferred it if the filmmakers had been more definitive on taking one side over the other and not placating both.
This movie has echoes of James L. Brooks' Broadcast News (1987), a funnier and better crafted comedy. In that movie, a debate runs through it about journalistic ethics and news perception as well, and I think I liked that movie more because it did take a definitive stand on one side of the argument. I understand the situation in that case was a bit more black-and-white than this one, which could be a bit more murky and gray, but sometimes a movie or any expression of ideas works best when there is a single point-of-view driving it.
That point-of-view can change if the opposite argument is so convincing, but I got the feeling watching this movie that not even the opposite argument was all that convincing on either side, except it seems that the Rachel McAdams side of sensationalism over seriousness seems to win out. Yet, what doesn't win out in the end is the semi-romance, a semi-romance that was handled tremendously better in Brooks' movie.
Here, Becky starts to date a news producer named Adam Bennett, played by Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy and Watchmen). Besides being a very handsome, sexual diversion, Wilson's role is practically unnecessary. He perhaps lends to the fact that Becky is neurotic and married to her work so much that it's a detriment to her personal relationships. Yet, in a romantic comedy, you'd hope she'd learn to overcome that in order to be with her boyfriend. That does not happen, making Adam's presence very pointless.
Becky's relationship with Mike is what becomes the center. It becomes obvious though that no romance will blossom between those two, which might have been vastly more interesting. Another route was the constant bickering between Mike and Colleen. These jump out as some of the most hilarious moments in the movie. A romance developing between these two would have been vastly more interesting than any time spent with Becky and Adam, but we don't get that either.
Unfortunately, the romance is lost. The TV news argument is lost or muddled. The performances are funny but not all together charming. I appreciated them, but it wasn't enough.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief drug references.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 47 mins.