Friday, April 11, 2014

A Reel Review: DRAFT DAY

Despite its flashy surface, the selling point of Ivan Reitman’s DRAFT DAY is a tough one. Diehard fans of the National Football League will surely line up to see it, as will long-time fans of Kevin Costner. But the trick in selling the film to a seated audience is to make it work on both ways; as a sports drama and as a character’s movie with a story to tell.
On the morning of the annual NFL Draft, Sonny (Costner), the general manager of the woeful Cleveland Browns, makes a controversial trade which puts him at odds with his executive assistant/girlfriend (Jennifer Garner), his head coach (Denis Leary), his teams’ owner (Frank Langella) and his mother (Ellen Burstyn).

The best thing DRAFT DAY has going for it is its ability to explore what happens to the general manager of a professional sports team when he makes a monster deal which paints a target on his back. When Sonny makes the shattering trade, he spends much of the movie entertaining offers from many teams…all of which would be beneficial for his team. On top of that, he has to cater to the wishes of his fans, his grumpy owner and overzealous head coach…all of which have different ideas on how Sonny should conduct his team during the highly publicized draft. Here DRAFT DAY is at its strongest.
Ultimately the film is all about sports, and this is where the follies begin. While the film keeps its fans in mind with real-location shooting (stadiums and team-offices), real-player cameos and real-life scenarios, the script is dumbed down for wider audiences (non-fans). While a newcomer to the game of football or the basics of an NFL Draft may be able to follow along just fine, longtime fans may be shocked to see their beloved game have its complexities stripped away for a broad-strokes, third-grade-reading-level script which makes it all seem so simple. This does not help the film overall as it often feels way to simplistic…and predictable.

For a film which is all about making a decision while the clock ticks away, Ivan Reitman has managed to put together a bore of a film. The movie covers the final 13 hours before the Draft begins, and despite the ticking clock, no feeling of pressure is ever felt. No one sweats and no one feels the heat as they go about their business. In an effort to make things personal, the film often stops dead in its tracks to get into the characters personal stories…none of which really work as the effort feels so blatant. It almost feels like all of the personal-stories and subplots were added long after the football stuff was filmed.
The actors overall suffer from the dull and undeveloped script. Kevin Costner looks great for his age but he barely shows up and doesn’t work very hard. Jennifer Garner is as cardboard as her thin character, and Frank Langella just plays pissed all the time. Denis Leary shows all the wit and charm as an overzealous coach…so well that it may be interesting to revisit his character again someday, and Ellen Burstyn shows that she still has it. Sam Elliot makes a nice cameo as a college coach, and Tom Welling turns in an extended cameo as the Browns’ quarterback. Sean “P. Diddy” Combs shows up as a sports agent and proves that he is the worst actor in the universe.

DRAFT DAY doesn’t hit any sort of a groove or become the least bit exciting until the final twenty minutes or so, when the Draft actually starts and a few twists and turns drive us towards a nice, happy, Disney-type ending which even the average third-grader can see coming from 100 yards away. DRAFT DAY is predictable, dull, and an outright waste of time off the clock.

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