Directed by Ivan Reitman, Starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner
5 of 10
I will admit that I am not a fan of Kevin Costner, but I can concede that he is, or at least was, the king of the sports drama. In a way, it’s refreshing to see him return to the genre. And, for the first time in what feels like decades, I can say that Costner is one of the best parts of his movie. I wish that the rest of the movie was up to the level of his performance. I do not know if this could have been a great movie, but it could have been good, and better than it was. “Draft Day” isn’t a bad film, but it’s not particularly good either, and the potential is there.
The basic premise is that it is the day of the NFL Draft, and Kevin Costner is Sunny Weaver, the GM of the Cleveland Browns. He has the 7th pick in the draft, but a controversial trade gives him the #1 position. The choice is between 3 players: Running Back Ray Jennings, who barely factors into the movie but is mentioned in passing enough so that you remember he exists, Quarterback Bo Derrickson, the most talented player available who may have some character issues, and Linebacker Vontae Mack, a player almost as talented who definitely has character issues. This setup is perfectly fine. Derrickson, while not a fully developed character, talks and acts like a real football prospect. Mack is a good character, aided by Chadwick Boseman’s great performance, equaling Costner in much less screen time. Mack is the same person the entire time, but Weaver’s perception of him changes during the film, as he realizes that most of Mack’s problems revolve around family, and Weaver knows plenty about family issues. He probably knows too much for the film’s own good. Because the football part of football isn’t dramatic enough, Weaver gets a lot of subplots dumped on him. He is having a secret workplace relationship with his assistant Ally, who is pregnant. His father, the former coach of the Browns that young Weaver fired, has passed away, and Weaver’s mother is angry at Sunny for putting his work over his father’s dying wish. Jennifer Garner gives an adequate performance as Ally, and Ellen Burstyn is great as Sunny’s mother, but these people do not serve any purpose beyond furthering Sunny’s character. For this story, less would have been more. Adding more stuff on top of the film does flesh out some parts, but it does not make the film any better. The occasionally dumb writing shows up mostly whenever Garner is on screen. The writer has to show that Ally knows football, so she says random and well-known football facts that Weaver obviously would not need explained to him, and everybody in the room acts like these thoughts are insightful. Generally speaking, I liked the football scenes and was bored for the scenes with Sunny’s family, which are often too melodramatic to fit with the rest of the film.
The biggest problem that I have with “Draft Day” is that I’m not sure who the audience is, because as a massive sports and movies fan I should be the biggest audience in theory, but I feel like I’m not when actually watching the film. This movie does not seem to be for sports fans, because it is fictional and rather unrealistic. At the same time, I do not know how anybody who is not already a sports fan could possibly enjoy this. It is dense in football vocabulary that nobody stops to explain, and the human elements of it fail more often than they succeed. It is like “Moneyball” in that sense, but I can respect that “Moneyball” has better execution in the actors, script, and visuals. The filmmaking on display here is poor. Someone made an awful decision that kills the movie on its own. A majority of the film is phone calls between two parties. This is represented through split screen. Most of the first two acts use split screen, as in more than half of the run time. These screens bend constantly, they slide off the screen only for another split screen bar to take its place, and bodies frequently cross through the split screen bar into the screen of the other person. An example is included below, because it needs to be seen to believe.
“Draft Day” is wholly decent. It is easy enough to watch, enjoy, and never think about again. If you’re a football fan and have not seen it, it is not as interesting as the real stories behind the draft, but it is engaging enough to rent before this year’s draft. If you know nothing about football, don’t even bother. The draft plot will be nearly incomprehensible, and that is by far the most substantial plot.