Review: Draft Day
The shield of the N.F.L., which some of the more rebellious and impish among us refer to as standing for the ‘No Fun League,’ is plastered all about the poster for Draft Day, and that should be warning enough – remember The Internship.
The most popular sporting league in North America, one that has ventured into taking over more days of the week, more months in the calendar, and more countries in the world, is pretty good with public relations and isn’t going to make itself look bad. And hey, wouldn’t you know it, the actual NFL draft is coming up in about a month’s time.
Draft Day isn’t full of itself though; that is, the event is already a big deal. It truly is an exciting and tense day for fans and teams alike, so much so that the telecast regularly gets high ratings, and it’s just a bunch of talking heads and named announced!
The problem is that Draft Day isn’t catering to NFL fans; it’s ludicrous, manufactured, safe melodrama that has more ties to fantasy than, well, fantasy football.
As we learn early on, Kevin Costner is Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the much-maligned Cleveland Browns as well as a father-to-be; his apparently secret girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) is pregnant, and also works for him. Weaver also fired his father years ago, a legend in (this world) of Browns lore, and someone who has very recently died. So there’s some family drama.
But it’s draft day, so that has to take a backseat, even though Weaver and his merry band of Browns misfits spend time discussing the rudimentary aspects of the draft, which any football fan would know already. But here is the second part of the aforementioned problem; sure, it caters to casual observers and strangers to the game, but in doing so, it also shuns fans, and does it all so very inadequately and outrageously.
You don’t have to go back too far in time to find Moneyball, a sports film in fact about a much drier topic, but is far more compelling and welcoming.
Anyone, anywhere, might wonder why a GM and staff are so casually and stupefying unprepared for a day they’ve been working towards for months.
What proceeds over the course of the day though is entirely silly yet utterly predictable. In your head you know who is going to be picked because this is a movie – and definitely not real life. Weaver is on the hot seat from his owner, a wonderful Frank Langella who takes Weaver to an empty water park in order to illustrate the point of making a splash – now that’s rich!
So, inexplicably, Weaver makes a bad deal to get the first pick of the draft, which will, according to all reports and speculation, go to a talented, attractive, winning quarterback. But what of the two young men, one a linebacker (Chadwick Boseman) taking care of two young boys, the other a running back who’s father played for Cleveland, who called Weaver to say “pick me, pick me!”
I wonder. Costner’s humanity, humility, and wavering confidence save Draft Day from being completely unwatchable, and Boseman brings some much needed emotional investment, even if it’s a trace.
Director Ivan Reitman does admirably trying to maintain interest and attention for a film that is ostensibly people talking in offices and on phones, but this heavily-vetted script, which makes everyone look like a winner in the NFL, would bury any director.
Sometimes though you are up against an opponent just can’t beat no matter the spirit you bring to the table. The enemy here is the NFL, and you better believe that they aren’t going to let Hollywood get in the way of telling a story with real people in real situations that appeals to real fans.