Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day posits the idea that if you love watching NFL football, man, will you love watching Kevin Costner talk about it on the phone. I get the idea here. The popularity of fantasy football and broadcasts of the NFL draft will presumably bring in viewers. But I’m not sure there’s a need for a sort of “behind the scenes” melodrama revolving around one team’s fortunes. If there is — and the box office backs it up here — it’s not one as needlessly limp and cinematically inert as what Reitman has concocted.
The film follows the first day of the NFL draft, with a focus on Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Sonny is close to getting fired by the team’s owner (Frank Langella), just knocked up one of the team’s employees (Jennifer Garner) and doesn’t get along with his head coach (Denis Leary). Meanwhile, his legendary head coach of a dad just died, and all of Cleveland wants him canned. In theory, this is a good enough — if a bit convoluted — concept to work with, but Reitman directs with zero fervor. This might not be his fault entirely, since the film is inherently anticinematic (the script mostly calls for Sonny to take phone call after phone call). Still, there’s the distinct odor of going through the motions here. This goes for Costner, too. He is given a role that movie essentially rests on, but he simply lacks the gravitas (or an ounce of charisma, for that matter) to carry it.
The idea here is that Sonny will defy all odds and use his wits to come out on top. That’s acceptable in concept, but in practice, Draft Day’s aims become transparent and predictable very quickly. It just takes the movie another 90 minutes to catch up. To top it all off (at the risk of rankling Ken Hanke and intimating that I know something about sports) the film’s idea of how the NFL works — from contracts to the draft — is specious. Sure, this is a movie after all, and I rarely expect accuracy, but to be both far-fetched and poorly constructed is just too much. Rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language and sexual references.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.