Perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, the new film Morning Glory ends up being altogether delightful and cute and entertaining, which makes it all the weirder that it's left a distinctly sour taste in my mouth. I suspect the reason would, if I explain it, make me an asshole in the mind of the filmmakers; a suspicion bred of the fact that the character in the movie who would appear to agree with me is called an asshole on a fairly constant basis. But let's not skip ahead too far.

The movie plays 100% like what it looks like: a Frankensteinian fusion of Murphy Brown and The Devil Wears Prada (it helps cement this impression when we note that the film was scripted by Prada's Aline Brosh McKenna, who took time in between the two projects to crap out the ghastly 27 Dresses). Becky (Rachel McAdams) is a 28-year-old TV hotshot who has a job she adores producing Good Morning New Jersey, when she is unceremoniously fired. After a short, desperate hunt for work, she ends up as executive producer of Daybreak, a wretched morning show on the IBS network, and sets herself to the task of turning it around. Chief among her plans for doing so is using a contract loophole to blackmail crusty old icon Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) into joining Daybreak as her new anchor - a position that Pomeroy, being a newsman's newsman, the old-school type who considers anything remotely smacking of a puff piece to be the devil's work, hates more than death itself.

There is also a handsome IBS newsmagazine producer named Adam (Patrick Wilson) with whom Becky falls in love, but nobody, not Becky and certainly not the filmmakers, particularly cares about Adam. This is good, because Wilson has absolutely no chemistry whatsoever with McAdams.

So, in a nutshell: a talented young woman with a tendency to reel of pages and pages of boilerplate "I'm neurotic!" dialogue when she gets nervous (which is often) tries to make it in New York, and finds love by accident (the Prada part), while mostly dealing with the hectic nuts and bolts of just managing to put together a newscast day in and day out (the Murphy Brown part). The primary conflict in the film is between Becky's high-energy and endless optimism on the one hand, and Pomeroy's brittle irritation at his lot in life on the other, with a few characters on the edges to keep things upbeat, including Jeff Goldblum as a high-up IBS executive and Diane Keaton as Daybreak's hugely cynical, pill-popping veteran anchor. And those occasional Adam scenes that are just long enough to make a quick trip to the bathroom, which is awfully considerate of the filmmakers.

Here, then, is my problem with the film, the part where I totally miss the point: the film concedes almost the instant that the issue is raised that Pomeroy is a crabby old dick, that he needs to get with the program and understand that news is about infotainment now. Most fiction about the newsroom at least has the decency to pretend there's an argument to be had that the dumbing-down of our news culture has had a gruesomely deleterious effect on American discourse; but not Morning Glory. No sir, Morning Glory knows and isn't afraid to say it, that Pomeroy's angry ol' "dignity" and "intellectual fortitude" and "insistence on the responsibility of the fourth estate" are just a bunch of roadblocks on the way to Becky's realisation of her dream of becoming a phenomenal news producer, and heck if he'd better just get over himself, the pouty old egotist. Spoiler alert: he does so.

Me, I think that's a pretty shabby position for a movie to stake out. It's one thing to say that there's a place for human interest in the news; quite another to say that anybody who maintains that news media should be respectable and serious is "the third worst person in the world", and really mean it, even if it's couched as a gag. Shit, though, I'm a blogger. I'm part of the damn problem.

So anyway, past that big problem, the rest of Morning Glory is pretty easygoing and fun: a good, simple comedy for what ails you. Scratch that; it's simple on its own terms, but fairly challenging to the dominant chick flick/romantic comedy belief that a professional woman isn't really complete with a man. The one big scene where the grizzled vet confesses that a life in service of The Job with no room for family is no life at all, is notable mainly for how false it rings, how clearly the characters and the script don't actually believe it. Even the Adam scenes, for all that the drag the film down, are used in such a way that I don't suppose the film would be better without them; they are so boring and perfunctory that they tend to prove the point, that Becky's real love is Daybreak. She's never called upon to apologise for that fact, and bless the movie for it.

This is inherent in McKenna's script, but it's pulled out quite a bit by Roger Michell's direction; at his best (I am chiefly thinking of the unfairly forgotten The Mother), Michell's films are entirely free of nonsense and sentiment, even brusque; and he brings that sensibility to bear in Morning Glory by refusing to play up the soft, playful edges of the movie, working with cinematographer Alwin Kuchler to create a look that is bright and slightly harsh, capturing the sets in all their cruddy glory (the Daybreak offices are a marvel of design, by Mark Friedberg: lived-in and worn-out and falling apart, a resolutely unromantic view of the newsroom if ever I've seen one). It's far too much to call the film's aesthetic "realist"; Michell isn't disciplined enough here to stay away from a few odd moments that are too sweet for their own good - particularly the climactic sequence, which I'd be inclined to call a parody of rom-com excess, all swirling dresses and slow-motion, if it wasn't so damned sincere - and he is responsible for perpetrating some of the crappiest musical montages of 2010. But there are more moments that work than fail: moments in which McAdams is framed not as a pretty starlet but as a harried, fallible woman.

An impression that McAdams plays up: though Becky is not up to her skills as an actress, being mostly a collection of nervous tics and weak slapstick, she sells the hell out of it. That's true of most of the cast: Keaton does amazing work with a non-existent character, giving her a nasty edge that isn't in the script (when, oh when, is she going to get a brilliant part again? Oh, right - in Hollywood, old woman can't act). Goldblum, not trying at all, still manages to dominate every one of his scenes, and Ford has an angry, aggressive gravitas that expresses itself in his craggy face and low, threatening voice, making Pomeroy the best performance he's given in - God, it's been a lot of years.

It's easy to wish that Morning Glory had more ambition, but it's not stupid, just content to be a blithe entertainment. Well-acted, well-shot, and better-written than anything McKenna has done before - unlike Prada, there's some genuinely great comedy here that isn't solely reliant on the actors to drag off the page - it's pleasant and fun, and not much else. But hell, that's something.