(109 minutes, Rated PG-13)
In time for 2014s NFL draft, I tortured myself with Kevin Costner’s Draft Day. And though I really attempted to like this flick, its ill-advised script starts a domino effect that results in nearly the whole picture failing. The basic plot has Kevin Costner’s Sonny Weaver Jr. attempting to figure out his first round draft choice; but soon his strategy is thrown into chaos when hours before his selection, the owner, played by a horribly underused Frank Langella, threatens to fire him. Meanwhile, the supposed character study should have perfectly mixed with the draft day realism, which, if done right, would have delivered the perfect movie for die-hard football fans.
Yet, this mixed bag can be excruciating to watch, especially when it tries to be authentic; instead, the exposition heavy script sounds like it was written by an inexperienced newcomer, who regurgitates ‘Wikipedia’ facts to prove that he or she knows the sport. Also, the ‘exposition only’ radio show or Sonny’s long monologues are intended to help the non-football viewers, but it makes the characters look dense because they are already supposed to know this information. So in the end, the writers attempt to make an accessible but realistic NFL film completely fails because in order for the movie to work it has to choose ‘one or the other.’ However, the dumb down fun of The Replacements cannot be replicated with a complicated topic like the NFL draft.
But this is not where the problems end; a movie about draft day is going to have a lot of talking. I can deal with illogical name-droppings, if the dialogue is better than the average Disney sports flick; but constantly throughout I was cringing and wondering how did the writers, Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph, think this was passable. Almost all of the dialogue feels forced: as if the performers did not believe in the lines they were spewing.
On top of this, Draft Day is terribly predictable; I was not expecting The Usual Suspects, but the writers needed to try a little bit harder to conceal the outcome. Within the first twenty minutes, I knew the ending and this results from only introducing three potential draftees. Yes, the picture cannot overload the plot with characters; however, each cliché-ridden player excessively indicates where the film will go next. But again, if the dialogue is actually interesting the viewer could forgive this lapse in judgment. Instead, the writers treat the viewers like dumb ‘NFL-illiterate’ fools, while also, manipulating folks to believe that the NFL’s participation with Draft Day actually equates to something: instead, this ‘half-assed’ idea feels like a lazy attempt to cash in on football fans and their unfortunate significant others.
With that said, it is necessary to mention that the adept way they shot this during 2013s draft is quite fascinating. However, besides this one ruse Ivan Reitman did not know how to direct this picture; if Draft Day is any indication, I am glad Reitman gave up Ghostbusters 3 because he has lost his passion to direct. For instance, Reitman’s use of split screen with phone calls gets so overused that its infuriating effect becomes numb within the first thirty minutes; I know it is hard to effectively portray a phone call on screen, but its constant use makes Draft Day feel like a student picture. Finally, for a man who has directed comedy his entire life, this picture’s attempt at comedic moments is so unfunny that it furthers this student picture feel. Certain scenes linger on jokes way after the ‘punch line,’ yet the ‘punch line’ is completely pathetic in the first place. And the score does not help Reitman’s cause; the outdated symphony causes cheesy moments to be cheesier and ‘drives home the point’ that this was just a lazy effort on all accounts.
And the sad part is that some of the actors really do try here; both Denis Leary and Jennifer Garner give the best performances with the dialogue they have. One can even say that the best thing to come from Rothman and Joseph’s script is Garner’s Ali: a somewhat shining light on female empowerment. Even though the writers find it necessary to put her in a romantic relationship with the lead character (because for some reason that makes her relevant), she genuinely feels like the smartest person in the room. However, I cannot deny that Garner has some awful scenes with Kevin Costner, but that has more to do with Costner’s decision to phone this in. Out of the 109-minute runtime, I can only count two scenes where it feels that Costner is actually trying. And even with the bad dialogue, those scenes had me engaged; yet, his uninspired performance speaks loudly about the lack of care with the overall product. And it also shows why he has not been a relevant leading man in years.
Draft Day is the equivalent of a ‘movie tie-in video game;’ it is rushed in an attempt to coincide with a particular date. It is no coincidence that the Costner vehicle came out a month before 2014s NFL draft, but this seemingly cool idea fails due to its poor execution. Even the horribly cheesy ending proves that the writers and director had no idea what they were doing; instead of ending the picture on draft day, it fast-forwards to opening kick off, which makes Sonny into the sports messiah of Cleveland.
To add insult to injury, Reitman’s terrible choices lead to a final slow motion shot of the team running onto the field; this cliché and cheesy ending shows what is wrong with Hollywood’s interpretation of sports movies. Yes, every once in awhile a good sports flick arrives, but viewers have to struggle through tons of dreck to get it: still for every Friday Night Lights, which attempts to show a realistic interpretation of football in the south, there is The Blind Side, which is the equivalent of a ‘participation trophy.’ Hollywood simply does not know how to consistently portray the ‘jock environment;’ instead, studios hire ill-informed writers and a product like Draft Day is the consequence.