By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
One doesn’t have to be a big NFL football fan or be somewhat savvy with the draft process to enjoy this film. In fact, perhaps knowing too much about the actual process in which NFL teams recruit talent from the collegiate level might reveal a few holes in the story. Director Ivan Reitman takes his audience though a day in the life of a general manager of a struggling professional football team with not only personal problems on his plate, but also the harsh and hostile scrutiny of the teams owner, coaching staff, and overzealous fans. This isn’t just an ordinary day, though. All of these stresses are occurring on that one day of the year when a team has the opportunity to score some major players from the college ranks in hopes of either maintaining a great team, or rebuilding a brand new one for the opportunity of achieving greatness.
Kevin Costner stars as Sonny Weaver, Jr. the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a team in desperate need of revitalization after a thirteen-year losing streak. Sonny is barely clinging to his job, but has the chance to prove himself by making the right choices at the NFL draft. In addition to his career woes, Weaver has to deal with relationship issues with his employee Ali Parker ( Jennifer Garner), as well as maintaining a strong resolve while working under the shadow of his late, legendary father, one of the greatest coaches of the game. Quick headed decisions must be made as the clock is mercilessly counting down. The day’s end is inevitable, but whether or not Sonny will keep his job and earn the respect of his staff remain to be seen.
Written by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph, Draft Day does offer thrills and mostly funny humor, but does start off slowly and stumbles a bit in getting to its exciting, pulse- pounding climax. For the sake of entertainment, the story does have some elements which stretch reality a bit and require some suspension of disbelief. The movie does take a slightly corny turn with the conclusion, but not so bad that it nullifies all the good things that make the film enjoyable. The film features a mix of realistic and fully realized characters, as well as a few sports movie cliches. The entire piece does have its share of both flaws and strengths, but works in spite of this.
Draft Day has a solid cast that offers strong and performances despite some of the film’s issues. Costner performs well as the stressed, somewhat flustered and idiosyncratic Sonny Weaver, Jr., a charismatic, down-to-earth football manager with whom most audiences can connect and empathize. Despite their age difference, Costner and Garner make for a cute couple onscreen and share a descent chemistry. Garner delivers a tenacious performance as Ali Parker, a woman still fighting to earn respect in a world dominated by men in a sport she truly loves. The film also features solid turns by Chadwick Boseman, Dennis Leary, Timothy Simons, David Ramsey, Ellen Burstyn and Tom Welling. I also wish to acknowledge an awesome and entertaining turn by Cheap Thrills‘ Pat Healy who stars as a rookie NFL manager that appears during one of the more exciting and entertaining sequences during the film.
Those two words pretty much describe the movie well–exciting and entertaining. The film does have its problems and annoyances, but still is a fun experience that can be enjoyed either at the cinema or at home. Draft Day does lack the impressive writing and story development of other films such as Moneyball, but for a piece of sports fiction, it is delightful and charming.