Director: Ivan Reitman
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 7/10
Pardon the obvious pun but it always seems to be a sure touchdown when you have Kevin Costner starring in a sports-themed feature film. American Flyers, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, For the Love of the Game were all entertaining films about the sports they depict. Costner’s charm and ability to inhabit a role really draws you into the story. Field of Dreams would never have worked if another actor played Ray Kinsella. Billy Chapel’s life story as it unfolds during a perfect game might not have been as engaging. Costner always manages to capture the “everyman” persona of the athletes the world loves to watch. Costner returns to the sports world in Ivan Reitman’s latest film Draft Day where he once again shines as another sports figure this time in the biggest sport of them all, professional football.
Draft Day. It’s the one day of the year where all the teams in the NFL come together to pick the rookie athletes who may prove to be the next big thing in sports. Making the wrong choices could sink a team or make the right ones and you could raise it to new heights. Everyone wants to have the first overall pick and some teams are willing to wheel-and-deal to make it happen. Sonny Weaver Jr., the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, is willing to do what he can to make his team better. The Browns are in the dumps and management, as well as fans, demand results. On what may be the biggest day of his career, Weaver must contend with his personal life, his boss, other managers, his staff, his players and even the fans. If Weaver doesn’t come through with this draft it’ll cost him his job. No pressure.
Draft Day is certainly flawed but thanks to its winning cast and Reitman’s direction it is still entertaining. Costner is convincing as Sonny Weaver Jr., a man who finds himself in a hard place trying to make a decision that could have a lasting impact on his team. He does a find job of not showing his cards and you are left to wonder just what he’s going to do until his time on the clock comes. Jennifer Garner does well as Ali his girlfriend and co-worker. She’s not just another pretty face, she’s business savvy, knows the sport and is an integral part of the team and Garner plays that quite well. Denis Leary is great as the head coach, Coach Penn. Continually dogging and second guessing Costner’s Weaver as only Leary can. Frank Langella stars as Anthony Molina, the Browns’ owner. Josh Pence,Chadwick Boseman and Arian Foster appear as potential draft picks and Tom Welling stars as the Browns quarterback who may be on his way out. In addition, numerous character actors and NFL alumni who play themselves round out the ensemble.
Ivan Reitman, working from a screenplay by Scott Rothman & Rajiv Joseph, has directed what is probably his best film since 1993’s Dave. The film is not a straight up drama like Moneyball but does have its fair share of comedic moments. Although some of it felt like mere fluff and should have been flagged on the play. It would have been great if they spent more time with the potential draft picks but that probably would have made the film a lot longer than it needed to be. Still Draft Day manages to make the actual event interesting. It’s very likely that most fans only catch highlights of their team’s picks but don’t really pay attention to all the transactions that take place. Unless you’ve been there and seen what goes on behind the scenes it’s hard to say if what transpires during the draft is how things really do go down. However, as presented it does seem to be a bit embellished but entertaining nevertheless.
Draft Day isn’t among the best of the Costner canon of sports films but it certainly is a welcome addition. Sports fans, especially football fans, will likely find something to enjoy in this one. In fact, it may even make you more excited about the upcoming draft itself. It presents a fictionalized account of the dealings that team general managers must broker that is entertaining, enlightening and worth checking out.