What looks like a romantic comedy, plays like a romantic comedy - but lacks the laughs of a romantic comedy?
Morning Glory, the newest film from director Roger Michell (Notting Hill), fits the description. It's a romantic comedy in all the ways that matter except the most important: It rarely provides the humor it promises. It's like a soufflé that never rises.
Not that it doesn't try. Its rhythms, its flavor, its set-ups - they all have the look and feel of a film like Tootsie or, more appropriately, Broadcast News, the film that Morning Glory so desperately wants to be. The problem is writer Aline Brosh McKenna: She doesn't know how to pull the trigger on a punchline, it seems, no matter how hard she tries.
That makes sense. McKenna's most famous script was The Devil Wears Prada, whose best material was drawn from the book by Lauren Weisberger. More typical were her scripts for the dreadful Three to Tango, and the similarly humor-challenged 27 Dresses, the Katherine Heigl dud. Morning Glory would seem to clinch it: Prada was funny because of the original material - but McKenna isn't particularly funny as a writer.
Not that she doesn't have a feel for the romantic comedy form. She just can't craft a punchline to go with the romantic moments she weaves through the script.
Morning Glory certainly has the other assets of a solid romantic comedy: a strong cast with unexpected chemistry, dealing with material that's actually about something. So why doesn't it work better?
Rachel McAdams, one of the cutest and most likable actresses working today, plays Becky Fuller, whose lifelong dream has been to produce the Today show. As the film opens, she's the ultra-upbeat and inventive producer of Good Morning, New Jersey, with no social life because her days start with a 3:30 a.m. alarm.
When her boss calls her in, she assumes it's because she's gotten the call up to the majors - the network. Instead, she's been downsized, in favor of a newbie who has an MBA and can find ways to save the station money, in addition to producing the early morning show.
Becky, however, is no quitter.