I know it probably seems strange to review a film that has recently dropped out of the box office top ten, but with the upcoming NFL draft only a week away, this seemed like a topical film to review. When I first saw the trailer for Draft Day, I wasn’t sure what to think. We’ve had movies before about the business side of professional sports—Jerry Maguire and Moneyball, for example—and they can be just as engaging as any underdog story, if not more so. At the same time, I didn’t know how an audience was supposed to get invested with this kind of story. Plenty of people go absolutely wild when watching the draft because they follow the sport and want to see how their teams (or rivals) are building their rosters. Can that same kind of investment be created with fictional players? Yes…well, maybe.
One of the first things about Draft Day that surprised me was the director the studio chose. You might remember him as the guy who brought you this movie.
Whether Reitman was hired for this by the studio or was the one spear-heading this film, I don’t know, but considering his filmography, having him at the helm was different. Maybe he wanted to step out of his comfort zone and make a film that wasn’t a comedy with romantic elements sprinkled in. This time he wanted to make a sports drama…with romantic elements sprinkled in. Don’t get me wrong; his direction was fine, but with the exception of a few scenes, there didn’t seem to be much that elevated the drama of his material. I kind of wonder if he made Draft Day just to say that he did it. If so, he seems to have played it on the safe side.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it more times than I can count: Kevin Costner is at his best in sports movies. I don’t know what it is about the guy. I didn’t like him as Robin Hood. The Postman was a bore. And I won’t even get started on Man Of Steel.
Yet movies like Bull Durham, Field Of Dreams and Tin Cup are all much more watchable.
His performance doesn’t feel as forced as it usually does. Somehow, movies related to sports tend to bring out more spontaneity in him. Jennifer Garner does a fine job with her role. There just wasn’t much of a need for her character. Sadly, all of the female characters are pretty much non-essential to the central plot of the story. If they were written out of the movie, you probably wouldn’t be able to get any more or less invested than you already are. My favorite performance was Frank Langella’s. This is the second movie in which I’ve seen him play the owner of a professional sports team, and he fits so naturally into that role.
The story is decent enough. I like the theme of Costner’s character having to come into his own after living in the shadow of his much beloved father, and I wish the story was more focused on that. Draft Day juggles Costner’s pressure of buying the farm with trading for the first pick in the draft, his somewhat secret relation with Garner, his conflicts with his staff, players and competing general managers, the wheeling and dealing of sports business and commercials for the NFL. Yeah, there are scenes in this movie which really have nothing to do with the main story; it’s just eye candy for the die hard NFL fans. I’m a big NFL fan too, but if I wanted to watch the drama behind the goings-on of the sport. I can just watch the sport. They create these fictional players with back-stories, but they’re glossed over pretty quickly and since we’ve never really seen them play and can only judge them based on how people talk about them, it becomes a little difficult to really care about what happens with them.
That’s pretty much all there is to say about this one before venturing into spoiler territory. If you can’t get enough of the NFL, you might get something out of this movie. Obviously none of it pertains to anything really going on in the actual NFL, but it does a decent job of giving the audience an idea of what it’s like to be a general manager of a struggling franchise…if you care about that sort of thing. If you’re not a big sports fan, there isn’t much here for you. The romance is tacked-on and not very well developed. The characters don’t have much dimension. There are a few good scenes of the phone conferences between the G.M.s of the other teams and every scene with Frank Langella, but beyond that, the acting is just okay at best. This movie will probably not be too well remembered since it hits the bull’s eye of mediocrity, but if you decide to watch it, it’s a nice harmless way to kill a couple hours.