‘Draft Day’ Review

Published 3 months ago by , Updated April 11th, 2014 at 4:37 pm,

Draft Day Movie 2014 Kevin Costner Draft Day Review

In Draft Day, the Cleveland Browns are an average football team – with an above average number seven pick in the upcoming NFL draft. On the morning of the draft, general manager Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner), the son of a beloved Browns head coach, is embroiled in a firestorm of contentious pressures from fans, his coaching staff, the media, and team owner, Harvey Molina (Frank Langella) – not to mention girlfriend/Browns financial analyst, Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner).

In an effort to please everyone and “make a splash,” Weaver agrees to gamble with Cleveland’s future in a punishing trade for the Seattle Seahawks’ number one pick – which, with the right choice, could drastically change the Browns’ fortune and give Ohio football fans a legitimate shot at Super Bowl glory. Without time to regret the decision, Weaver and his staff scramble to determine which NFL hopeful is the best fit for their program. Cleveland fans want famous quarterback, Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), but before Weaver makes the biggest choice of his life, he must determine if Callahan has the skills, not just the hype, to help turn the Browns ball club around.

Draft Day Movie 2014 Kevin Costner Jennifer Garner Draft Day Review

Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner in ‘Draft Day’

Filmmaking veteran Ivan Reitman directed Draft Day, delivers an enjoyable sports drama that, at the same time, will likely make die-hard football fans roll their eyes. In spite of potentially career-ending stakes for the Weaver character, Reitman maintains a light tone and fast pace, jumping from one crisis (and phone call) to the next, while injecting a steady stream of details that build toward a silly, albeit entertaining, third act resolution. While sports history references as well as cameos from ESPN personalities and NFL players will give extra value for football fans, those same viewers will also need to suspend a lot of disbelief once Weaver starts wheeling and dealing.

The plot is straightforward enough, but instead of simply relying on the excitement of NFL Draft Day and Weaver’s underdog attempt to turn a number seven draft pick into Cinderella story magic, Reitman (along with writers Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph) overstuff the film with personal drama. Balancing Weaver’s larger ambitions with a frustrated (not to mention pregnant) girlfriend allows a whimsical break from pissing contests with rival ball club managers; yet, a demanding mother (who is completely insensitive to the growing likelihood her son’s career is on the line) muddles the film with unnecessary and unconvincing melodrama.

Draft Day Movie 2014 Denis Leary Kevin Costner Draft Day Review

Denis Leary as Coach Penn in ‘Draft Day’

In script form, this “sports family” tangent, centered on beloved Coach Weaver, Sr., his widowed wife, and their son, Weaver, Jr., might have produced an impactful message about the sacrifices of family, but in the final film any remnants of the arc are little more than vestigial tissue that distract from what Reitman cares about most – the thrill of behind-the-scenes draft deals.

As mentioned, football fans who pour over their own mock draft picks each year will, no doubt, find the film’s interpretation of the event outright absurd at times; though, a charming performance from Costner manages to hold the movie together – despite some very strange directorial choices. In an endeavor to make cross-country phone calls stimulating, Reitman toys with an enhanced (and constantly shifting) split-screen effect that, if it weren’t for a commanding turn from Costner, could have been dizzying. Fortunately, the veteran actor appears to relish in Weaver’s view of the Draft Day dilemma, which requires idealism, pragmatism, as well as a sense of humor, resulting in an absorbing and often downright relatable protagonist. That said, the character’s evolution throughout the movie isn’t particularly nuanced – making it hard to believe that Weaver is actually in control of the situation (as opposed to just a lucky opportunist).

Draft Day Movie 2014 Chadwick Boseman Draft Day Review

Chadwick Boseman as Vontae Mack in ‘Draft Day’

Garner helps to put out fires, sometimes literally, and injects a much-needed dose of female perspective in a film where most of the men are shouting at one another – e.g., Denis Leary’s Coach Penn. Penn isn’t much of a stretch for Leary but the character’s outrageous tantrums yield some compelling face-offs with Weaver. Unsurprisingly, Chadwick Boseman (42) is, again, a standout as Vontae Mack – a misunderstood ball player that helps remind viewers, and Weaver, that there’s more to the NFL draft than stats and contracts. Tom Welling (Smallville) is utilized in a similar capacity as current Browns QB Brian Drew – providing a sincere and endearing performance in the part. Despite limited screen time, fans of the former Superman finally have reason to think the actor might be taken seriously in future adult roles – especially now that he’s grown out of his boyish CW looks.

Reitman means well, and Draft Day often succeeds at reflecting sport fan sentimentality, but his execution is still pretty clumsy. Outside of the principle characters, most supporting players are thinly scripted caricatures – which also make it relatively easy to predict where all the puzzles pieces will fit as the narrative plays out. This isn’t to say that audiences will guess every plot point ahead of time, but in spite of high-powered trades, Draft Day rarely offers truly engaging surprises. Ultimately, the only genuinely shocking revelation is just how far Reitman ventures to test disbelief in the final thirty minutes.

Draft Day Movie 2014 Tom Welling Draft Day Review

Tom Welling as Brian Drew in ‘Draft Day’

As a result, Draft Day falls short of sports drama greatness, films that are simultaneously entertaining, educational, and insightful, landing it in a guilty-pleasure middle ground where the target audience will need to temper hope of authenticity and non-sports fans will miss out on several of the most cutting references. Still, thanks to a solid performance from Coster and some witty character beats, casual moviegoers should find adequate amusement in Reitman’s film - alongside any die-hard NFL fans that can set aside encyclopedic knowledge of actual GM strategy and appreciate Sonny Weaver’s Hail Mary pass in Draft Day.

If you’re still on the fence about Draft Day, check out the trailer below:

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Draft Day runs 120 minutes and is Rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language and sexual references. Now playing in theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

TAGS: draft day

8 Comments

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  1. I saw the movie and liked it. As a sports/football fan I found in enjoyable…especially since there is no football to watch at the moment. Yes, some of the plot lines are a little far fetched but the movie gives a somewhat inside look at what life might be like as a NFL GM. The movie is a fun watch but not going to win any awards. 3.5 stars and your significant other will probably like it as well.

    • What you’ve said is pretty much my exact sentiments. It’s no sports film classic, but it’s an enjoyable movie to watch nonetheless. In reality, something like the plot in this movie would never happen… but that could be said about 90% of movies made. Draft Day wasn’t made to be a documentary, it’s a film where the audience should knowingly suspend disbelief. If you’re a football fan, I’d recommend seeing the film at least once. I liked it well enough, heck even my wife liked it.

  2. It’s great to see Denis Leary and Tom Welling again on screen. Haven’t seen Welling since Smallville.

    Chadwick Boseman should play the next Green Lantern.

  3. I thought it was pretty good better than 2 1/2 stars. I figure it will entertain football and sports fans more than just people in general. It went a little long and was a bit sappy but other than that it was good.

  4. My husband and I saw Draft Day and really liked this film. Kevin Costner is a exceptional actor in this movie. All the other characters are very believable. We are football fans but not zealots, so we felt this was a Saturday afternoon enjoyable movie. Pure entertainment, with a heartfelt story. Jennifer Garner was also very good.

  5. While on the surface its pleasant enough, the believability of orchestration of and maneuvering around the other teams in the top 7 was laughable at best. It would have been more entertaining and believable if they showed a bit more of the the draft (any of the second/later rounds) where teams really build the GUTS of their teams and fill roster needs by finding hidden gems, like coincidently the Seattle Seahawks have in the recent years leading to their Superbowl victory. As a relatively big football fan, I would have liked to see more of that (building a cache of later pics, and maneuvering around the other teams) and not just the “drama” around getting 2 first round draft picks.

    I guess this movie was made for non-football fans, that casually enjoy sorts movies, and in that sense its a perfectly acceptable film that incorporates real NFL teams nicely. In reality it would have been more believable to see the Stay-Puft marshmallow man march down the streets of NYC and into the Radio City Music Hall to be drafted # 1 overall… OMG I may have just written Ghostbusters 3!
    haha

    OH and it was nice to see Tom Welling! I didn’t recognize him for the first minute he was on screen…

    • I’m a non-football fan, and I gave it two stars.

      1. Plus: it had nationwide appeal, with screen shots of football fields across the country, and wasn’t just about Big NYC or just Flyoverland Cleveland.

      2. Family drama was artificial. I’ve seen more believable family drama on the worst episodes of General Hospital.

      3. The language banter seemed off. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe I expected more colorful language: not just “balls” but more g-d-’s and more f-substitutes. I understand that it can’t have f-s like “Wolf of Wall St” or it would have to be rated R, but it just seemed to me that the colorful language was a bit off of reality.

      4. I enjoyed watching Costner negotiate. The negotiating scenes were entertaining and kept me awake.

      Otherwise, the film is harmless enough and not offensive in any real way.

      • P.S. I kept waiting for Tom Cruise to answer one of Kevin Costner’s phone calls and holler into the phone “Show me the money!” but that never happened. Pity.

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