“Miracle,” “Remember the Titans,” “Field of Dreams” – if you have seen one sports movie, you have seen them all.
A film about the ins and outs of the most highly anticipated day for the National Football League season, “Draft Day” is another film in which a director tries to recreate the natural drama of sports on the big screen while throwing in a few extra stress-heightening devices to draw in the audience.
Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner, “Bull Durham”) is the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a lackluster franchise in a football hungry city. Weaver has been with the team for two years and, as the son of Cleveland football legend Sonny Weaver Sr., the fans and organization are expecting big things. However, with the death of said father and the realization his girlfriend Ali (Jennifer Garner, “Alias”) is pregnant, it seems like the weight of the world is on Weaver at the worst time.
He is then told his job will more than likely be gone unless he makes a “big splash” in the upcoming draft. Sensing his counterpart’s vulnerability, Seattle Seahawks’ general manager Tom Michaels (Patrick St. Esprit, ”We Were Soldiers”) gives Weaver a call to offer the No. 1 pick.
Weaver, sitting at the No. 7 pick after the meeting with Molina, takes the deal giving up the team’s first round pick in each of the next three years. Now, instead of debating between a loose-cannon linebacker, Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman, “42”), and a banged-up running back with Browns football roots, Ray Jennings (Arian Foster, actual NFL running back), Weaver is primed and ready to take the highly touted franchise-quarterback-to-be, Bo Callahan (Josh Pence, “The Social Network”). The trade to move up on the draft board sets the stage for a very interesting second half of the film as the actual draft draws near and begins.
While all this might be enough for a die-hard NFL fan or even a committed sports fan in general, director Ivan Reitman and company attempt to throw in cameos and extra storylines left and right to catch the eye of casual moviegoers.
Weaver’s love interest, Ali, is a co-worker and their love is scarcely mentioned around the office. The new head coach, played by Denis Leary (“The Amazing Spiderman”), is a loudmouth hotshot with an ego and his own ideas of who the team should draft. There is a new intern, Rick (Griffin Newman), who oddly enough starts on the day of the draft and has the type of awkward, quirky personality to connect with the audience’s sense of humor while making them love him as well. Finally, add Weaver’s mother showing up just hours before the draft wanting to spread her late husband’s ashes on the team’s practice field with her son present.
From Roger Goodell to Chris Berman to all the other familiar faces of NFL analysts on draft day, the film almost makes the audience feel like they’re on their couch at home watching the actual draft. Not to mention, the movie’s music may seem familiar to viewers well-versed in sports cinema you could hear it all on a sports movie Pandora station.
While Reitman is good at using wide, medium and close-up shots throughout the film, his use of split screen shots is overdone and at times puzzling. Even though the selection seems appropriate for all the phone calls between general managers throughout the day, it becomes confusing during the conversations when Reitman switches scenes by having one of the characters walk through the other’s half of the screen as if they are together for a split second. Also, the majestic sky-view shots to help the audience travel from city to city as the movie shifts to different teams during the day are quite cliché and unnecessary to the story.
The movie as a whole is predictable. Many may believe that Garner and Costner’s performances seem boring and lack natural flow, but the reality is they do a great job of personifying the characters they are meant to portray, as does the rest of the cast.
The clichés, predictability and dry storytelling may turn off some audience members; however, sports enthusiasts eat these types of movies up. If you go into the theatre expecting mind-blowing cinematography, moving musical scores and intensely passionate scenes, you will not enjoy the film. But if you take it for what it is and enjoy the sports based drama and triumphant ending, which comes with so many sports films, you will definitely enjoy your experience.