Nov. 10 2010 12:00 AM

Expert cast brings ’Morning Glory’ to full bloom

In writer-director James L. Brooks’ classic 1987 comedy-drama “Broadcast News,” dynamic, idealistic producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) spent much of her time fretting about the rise of puff-pieces in network newscasts. In “Morning Glory” (no relation whatsoever to the Katharine Hepburn drama of the same name), producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) doesn’t fight fluff — she eagerly seeks stories like “Eight Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Potatoes” and gets excited at the thought of sending a camera crew to a sauerkraut festival where attendees will be bowling with heads of cabbage.

Somewhere, Jane Craig is weeping.

Audiences, on the other hand, will be laughing.

While “Glory” may not have anything good to say about the current state of TV journalism, it does a swell job of throwing out some of the zestiest, most quotable one-liners since “Juno” and “The Devil Wears Prada” (no surprise, since screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna also contributed her wry wit to “Prada”).

Even better, the film is graced with a trio of delectable star turns, led by McAdams, who has a wicked way of making her brand of sputtering spunkiness extremely funny and utterly beguiling.

“Glory” doesn’t aim for the incisive, behind-the-scenes drama of “Broadcast News,” opting instead for more familiar comic territory. Becky is the ringmaster of “Daybreak,” a weekday morning show that is continually stomped in the ratings by “Today,” “Good Morning America” and “whatever they call that thing on CBS,” cracks network boss Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum). So Barnes figures he has nothing to lose by hiring Becky to manage the mess.

Becky soon wonders if she’s the ringmaster of a show-biz circus, or merely being thrown to the lions. Her primary job duty involves being the mild-mannered mediator between self-important veteran reporter Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) and the queen of “Daybreak,” Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), a bitter Diane Sawyer wannabe who knows all too well that she rules a kingdom of fools.

Mike, blessed with a prickly personality that would make W.C. Fields seem cuddly by comparison, snickers at Colleen’s heartfelt “Diary of a Pap Smear” story. “You wore a silk robe — nice touch,” he growls.

She knocks his imperious attitude. “Pompous — that’s interesting, that’s a different color for you,” she notes, sarcastically.

Keaton’s brittle, barely reined-in rage plays marvelously well against Ford’s stonefaced stuffiness, and it’s hard to believe no one has ever thought of putting them together before now. Both work quite effectively with McAdams, too: In her presence, Keaton becomes the older and wiser sorority sister wearily showing the youngster the ropes, while Ford has several fine moments in which he’s torn between

cheering Becky on in her quest for success and warning her that tunnel-visioned workaholics can easily wind up in a very lonely place after their careers have peaked.

Director Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) never allows the pace to plod — even though it does seem as if at least one subplot-inthe-making gets abruptly shut down — and he allows many of the supporting performers their own chances to shine, most notably John Pankow as Becky’s seasoned, sympathetic associate and Matt Malloy, who is hilarious as a meteorologist whose every on-camera appearance brings a 90 percent chance of humiliation.

’Morning Glory’

opens today at Celebration! Cinema Lansing and NCG Eastwood Cinemas.