Film critics on 'Morning Glory': Hollywood has a bad case of Knock Off Fever
When my 12-year-old asked me last week if he could see "Due Date," I told him I'd be happy to take him one night, but only after he'd prepped himself for the experience by watching "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." As virtually every critic in America took note of in their reviews last weekend, "Due Date" is a thinly veiled rip-off of the wondrous 1987 John Hughes movie, which finds Steve Martin and John Candy stuck together on a series of cross-country misadventures. (My son, who'd never really seen John Candy in all his glory, can't wait to watch "Uncle Buck" next.)
Needless to say, critics were largely united in their opinion that "Due Date" was a pallid imitation of the original. But little did they know that this week would deliver "Morning Glory," yet another example of Hollywood's new Knock Off Cinema. It seems that today's studio bosses, not content with churning out a never-ending stream of remakes and sequels, have now decided that even flimsy retreads of 20-plus-year-old movies can be passed off as original stories.
If you go to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review aggregation site, you'd be hard pressed to find a review of "Morning Glory" that doesn't compare it--unfavorably--to "Broadcast News," James Brooks' 1987 comedy masterpiece, which, like "Morning Glory," offers a romantic comedy take on the dumbing down of TV news. Of course, this being Hollywood 2010, even the dumbing down has been dumbed down. In "Due Date," the comedy is cruder and noisier than "PT&A" while in "Morning Glory," written by Aline Brosh McKenna, the relationships are blander and oozing with far more sitcom shallowness than anything in "Broadcast News."
Nearly every "Morning Glory" review takes note of the debt the film owes to "Broadcast News," but no critic did a better job of capturing its clumsy ersatzness than Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, who had this to say:
The end of the year tends to bring about the release of a new James L. Brooks movie or, more often than not, an imitation James L. Brooks movie — usually directed by Nancy Meyers, who I would say now makes them better than Brooks does. "Morning Glory" might be described as a fake imitation James L. Brooks movie. It's trying for the same mixture of romance and repartee and social observation, but it's pretty light on all three.... The whole film is really just a chintzy work-family sitcom.
Gleiberman's colleagues were all on high "Broadcast News" alert. The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday viewed "Morning Glory" as a huge drop-off, saying "to compare Rachel McAdams' ditsy, meaningless mannerisms to Holly Hunter crying alone at her desk...is to realize how far movies have deviated from recognizable reality." The Arizona Republic's Bill Goodykrontz calls "Morning Glory" a "slight movie that makes 'Broadcast News' look like 'All the President's Men' by comparison." USA Today's Scott Bowles dismissed the new film as "an ill-fated comedy, pollinated by 'Broadcast News' and 'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.' "
The Toronto Star's Peter Howell thought the film was such a lox that he not only compared it unfavorably to "Broadcast News," but to "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." The Boston Globe's Ty Burr was the most succinct of all, saying " 'Broadcast News' this ain't.' "
Thank god we have a far more original movie, "Unstoppable," coming this Friday, a film about an out-of-control train starring Denzel Washington and directed by Tony Scott, whose last film was--yikes!--about an out-of-control train too (although, in fairness, the early reviews say its story is far more accomplished than "The Taking of Pelham 123," which was a remake). Still, if you're a film critic or regular moviegoer, when you head out to the multiplex these days, you often feel like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day," fated to relive all the same stories over and over again.
Photo: Rachel McAdams, left, with Harrison Ford in a scene from "Morning Glory." Credit: Paramount Pictures