Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Chadwick Boseman, Denis Leary
I don't know what it is about Kevin Costner and his father-figure qualities but he is still watchable and likable even though he starred in movies like Waterworld and this year's 3 days to Kill. Costner is the type of actor who goes from the nonredeemable to the redeemable in the course of one year to the next. For every Dances with Wolves and JFK there's a The Postman and Dragonfly to cut him back down. This year it seems like it's going from 3 Days to Kill/Jack Ryan to Draft Day.
Now, before you are shocked that I would say that Draft Day is on the upper spectrum of good Costner films, I'd say it's near the tipping point between good and bad. Draft Day is fun, breezy entertainment especially if you are a football fan but Moneyball, it ain't. I don't know if I'd even put it up in the same level as Any Given Sunday. Moneyball was one of my favorites of 2011 and featured an excellent Brad Pitt-Jonah Hill team-up based on an inspiring true story and was all about the underdogs take risks to win but also change the rules of baseball. Draft Day is more like Moneyball Lite. Draft Day does have the benefit of actually using the NFL team names and logos but it is not based in any reality besides that the Cleavland Browns are awful. So the movie has the same game-changing tactics and underdogs overcoming obstacle crowd-pleasing moments that are good in the moment but has no staying power because it is all fictional characters and you know that nothing like this did happen so what's the point? For as crowd pleasing as Draft Day is you forget that none of these characters or drafts are real and that what makes watching something like Hatteberg's homerun in Moneyball that much more goosebumps-inducing.
Instead of Moneyball think of it as Inglorious Basterds for football fans re-imagining how they wish their beloved but terrible sports team showed a chance to be a successful franchise much like how we wish Hitler blew up in a movie theater explosion.
The film's ace in the hole is Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver. He's the perfect middle aged actor to bring heart and charisma to the role of a dogged General manager of a losing team who recently lost his respected father. He is endlessly watchable, charming, and surprisingly funny and puts all this skills to good use in a tense and well-written payoff scene during the climatic ending Draft. If anything, this movie is a great game of guess that actor. This movie is full of short scenes with famous actors mostly through telephone calls who have anywhere from alot of screentime to two minutes. Jennifer Garner is the main supporting lead as a salary cap executive but I think she should have been cast as Costner's daughter because there is a tacked on and unnecessary hidden love subplot between her and Costner. Garner is sexy and a good female lead but there is no sexual chemistry between her and Costner and she ends up being a tad paper thin. Seriously is there no 50-60 believable looking female lead actresses in Hollywood? Other supporting turns include 42's Chadwick Boseman who brings some emotion to what could have been a cliche part, Terry Crews also appears in a refreshingly non-comedic but wasted cameo as a former Brown with a son looking to join the team. Sean "Puffy Daddy" Combs, Chi McBride, Tom Welling, and Sam Elliot all make short appearances in about one or two phone call scenes that don't require much acting ability. Actors Kevin Dunn and Denis Leary are the best utilized when sparring with Costner and are a tad more memorable. Ellen Burstyn (who sports the strangest hair color I've seen in a movie recently that I've dubbed the Chocolate/Vanilla Swirl) also appears in another useless subplot as Sonny Weaver's mother who wants to spread the recently deceased father's ashes on Draft Day and also for some reason brings Costner's ex played by Rosanna Arquette who I'm pretty such doesn't even have dialogue. The reliable Frank Langella even appears as the team's owner who laughably brings Sonny to a waterpark in the beginning of the film just to tell him he needs to make a "splash" during this year's draft, I shit you not. The film's problem is that it tries to bring up too many sitcom dilemmas during the anxiety of the Draft including the dead father, a romance, and comic hijinks with a new intern that I will admit does have one good punchline.
Draft Day is a good time killer and a good movie that the whole family can enjoy together. Veteran director Ivan Reitman directs and keeps the pace flowing and as much as I complain about the subplots never lets the movies become too boring. The movie also is good at keeping pace with a Football movie that never sets foot on the field. There is a number of over-the-top flourishes including team names and logos flying at you everytime we switch cities and phone calls constantly reverting to a distracting split screen where characters seemingly walk from their side of the split screen through the frame of the other split screen. No doubt this is a dramatic flourish to make football phone calls seem more lively but it becomes overkill by the end. I actually wouldn't be surprised if it holds the record for most split screens in one feature length film.
I saw Draft Day with a packed audience of middle aged and elderly folk of all different races who ate up this movie like cherry pie. They laughed and cheered at each appropriate moment and could have almost provided a sitcom laugh track if they were informed to include an "Ohhhhhh" during a kissing scene. The point I'm really trying to make is that there is an audience for Draft Day, you just have to decide if it's you. It certainly won't be one of my top drafts for 2014 movies.