Morning Glory like its director Roger Michell’s most notable film Notting Hill doesn’t reinvent the wheel but takes it for a pleasant spin around town. He trades the grey skies of London for the skyscrapers of Manhattan with a fun if formulaic romantic comedy that boasts an impressive but underused cast including Harrison Ford Diane Keaton and Jeff Goldblum.
Of course the real star of the show is Becky Fuller the behind-the-scenes boss of fictional network IBS’ (what a name) fledgling morning show Daybreak played by America’s newest sweetheart Rachel McAdams. She gives Becky spunk sexiness and a strong resolve to succeed in a business that isn’t kind to new recruits. Her task is simple to grasp but hard to execute: revive the show and boost its ratings. Had she been working with Matt Lauer or Diane Sawyer the job would’ve been easy but the film would’ve missed out on the possibilities for screwball workplace comedy.
The heartiest laughs are provided by supporting characters like Ty Burell’s Paul McVee who is more entertaining to watch in his ten minutes of screen time than the majority of the core cast throughout the film’s 102 minute run. Not every character is meant for comic relief though like Ford’s growling curmudgeon Mike Pomeroy a hard-nosed award-winning journalist and relic of the past in a world more interested in “fluff” over facts. Pomeroy is strong-armed by Becky into Daybreak co-hosting duties because of a clause in his contract and he does everything he can to make her life a living hell. His reluctance to cooperate is eventually undermined as a result of a “mutual understanding” between the two but it feels unauthentic as he betrays his own ideals for a barely developed friendship.
Even more phony is the virtually useless love angle between Becky and Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson) a fellow producer at IBS who advises her not to hire Pomeroy based on his own negative experience with the seasoned commentator. You could remove the character from the film completely without affecting the end result. Unfortunately the same can be said for Keaton’s co-host Colleen Peck whose arc mirrors Ford’s but who arrives at the finish line first. It’s a shame really because both are fine actors who could have done a lot more with characters with a bit more depth.
Its message about the sad state of American media aside depth isn’t what Morning Glory is about. This is a cheery comedy with a few chuckles and plenty of charm. Sure it’s silly but it’s definitely not stupid and doesn’t get overly sentimental. The script courtesy of The Devil Wears Prada scribe Aline Brosh McKenna is sharp enough to entertain if you don’t think too hard about it. It may not be the most memorable movie you’ll see this winter but it’ll surely bring a smile to your face.
The Switch is being touted for its on-screen pairing of “longtime friends” Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston. Which is odd because I found their scenes together in Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s romantic comedy about a 40-year-old single woman who sires a son artificialy with sperm that unbeknownst to her came from the loins her best friend to be its weakest aspect. Bateman whose improvisational wit is widely heralded appears tentative and deferential in the presence of Aniston as if he’s wary of going all-out for fear of eclipsing his co-star who also happens to be an executive producer on the film.
Their strained comic rapport makes for a flat and largely unfunny first act in which it is explained how Wally (Bateman) a cranky neurotic investment banker inadvertently impregnates his baby-mad best friend Kassie (Aniston). The whole contrived episode culminates during an “insemination party ” a peculiar New York City cougar ritual presided over by Kassie’s new-age pal Debbie (Juliette Lewis) wherein Wally drunkenly substitutes his semen for that of the Nordic Adonis (Patrick Wilson) originally designated for the job.
But just when The Switch’s foreboding intro has us steeling ourselves for 90 more minutes of high-concept rom-com pabulum the film pull a dirty trick: Its story fast-forwards seven years during which Kassie returns to her native Minnesota gives birth to a son named Sebastian and is lured back to present-day New York six-year-old Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) in tow by an irresistible job offer. It’s a shamelessly manipulative ploy bringing in the adorable pint-sized ringer off the bench but it turns out to be a welcome one breathing much-needed life into The Switch’s moribund proceedings.
Sebastian is truly a miniature version of his father whom he knows only as “Uncle” Wally with all of his intelligence and neuroses but none of the weary cynicism that adulthood inevitably breeds in such types. Bateman is clearly more comfortable — and a lot funnier — around Robinson and The Switch’s most memorable moments are found in the bond they develop.
But alas The Switch is a rom-com and so space must be allotted for the less appealing “rom” portion of its story. Kassie spends the bulk of the film believing that the Nordic Adonis is Sebastian’s true father despite the fact that he bears no resemblance to him whatsoever and when Wally finally confesses to his sperm-swapping she goes predictably ballistic renouncing him entirely. But the two are destined to be together so we are told and their estrangement is a brief one — lasting only a somber montage or two. When they’re inevitably united (if you consider this a spoiler you are beyond hope) we’re happy about it if only because no child should be forced to grow up with Jennifer Aniston as a single mother.
Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) is a handyman at a hotel his father once owned. When Skeeter’s dad sold it to Mr. Nottingham (Richard Griffiths) it was with the proviso that Skeeter would one day become manager but unfortunately the job is given to Skeeter’s main nemesis Kendall (Guy Pearce). But Skeeter’s luck is about to change. While babysitting for his niece and nephew (Laura Ann Kesling and Jonathan Morgan Heit) Skeeter starts telling them bedtime stories that come to life the next day using characters from his real life including the kids and their mom’s best friend Jill (Keri Russell). Set in Medieval Times Ancient Greece the Old West -- and even outer space -- the stories usually show Skeeter triumphing over the bad guys like The Booger Monster and Sir Buttkiss. And beware of raining gum balls; it’s that kind of movie. Adam Sandler’s teaming with Disney is an inspired idea since his humor has always had a juvenile Jerry Lewis-style flavor -- even in his more adult-oriented comedies. Leaving the gross-out comedy behind this time Sandler proves he is a perfect fit for this kind of harmless rather broad PG-formula family flick that should prove to be loads of fun for the youngest audience members. He’s a riot in some of the get-ups he is forced to wear coming off best in the Ancient Greece sequence. Keri Russell is sweet and attractive as a foil for a lot of Sandler’s hijinks while Courteney Cox as Skeeter’s uptight sister is given virtually nothing to do in the mom role. The kids are cute in a Disney Channel kind of way but often seem a little precocious for their own good. Work colleagues are played rather one dimensionally by Pearce and Griffiths but they all seem to be having fun inhabiting various stereotypical characters in the stories. Teresa Palmer is lovely as the owner’s daughter and the innocent object of Skeeter’s affections. Director Adam Shankman (Hairspray) brings lots of color and verve to the film but knows what Sandler fans expect -- even in a kids comedy. Giving the film a necessary light touch he ably moves it along through the various set pieces and special effects sequences that are required to bring all these imaginative shenanigans to life. Similar in many ways to Ben Stiller’s Night at the Museum the production values of the bedtime stories at the film’s center don’t seem to be as elaborate or technically savvy as they might have been with a larger budget. Still the cast seems to be having a great time and it’s all in the name of some harmless fun that parents should feel safe taking their kids to this holiday season.