Plot: The General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner), is pressured into making a splash on draft day when he trades years of draft capital for this year’s #1 pick. While everybody believes Bo Callahan (Josh Pence) to be a sure thing, Sonny feels the pressure to make the right pick as the future of the franchise rests in his hands.
There are two things I learned after watching Draft Day: I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with the NFL, even if it’s fiction. And secondly, this is the most attention the Cleveland Browns will get all season. Oh, poor Cleveland. This film is clichéd as all hell, it’s schmaltzy beyond belief, and it’s not realistic draft day football, as you have George Costanza “We can get Griffey and Bonds in the same outfield ” type trades going on left and right, but for whatever reason, I just liked it. The best compliment I can give Draft Day is that it’s highly entertaining beginning to end.
This really felt like a movie that should have been made in the nineties. You know, one of those films where your parents come out going, “You know, I really liked that one. I thought it was cute.” That’s this movie in a nutshell. The characters are all infinitely likable, and even though some of them act like jerks who chuck other people’s laptops against the wall, I kept saying to myself, “I bet they aren’t this nice in the real NFL.” There really isn’t much to say about Kevin Costner. He’s Kevin Costner, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He perfectly portrays a man under immense amounts of pressure. Even though the football stuff is overly exaggerated with ludicrous trades that maybe only the Raiders or Redskins would make in real life, they do a good job of depicting what kind of stress these guys endure on draft day.
The supporting characters were great as well, especially Denis Leary. Leary plays Coach Penn, the newly hired Super Bowl winning coach of the Browns. I love how Penn is so disgusted over Sonny’s ridiculous trade. Leary definitely chews the scenery, but in a good way. Frank Langella has a nice little role as the team owner, and even Sean Combs pops up as a sports agent, how about that? I also love how they focus on the impending draft players, and what their pluses and minuses are, which also fleshes them out as characters. There are three main players we learn about, played by Josh Pence, Chadwick Boseman, and even real life NFL player Arian Foster. They all give solid performances. Another great wrinkle they add is how Sonny’s trade affects the current Browns quarterback, Brian Drew. He’s got some really nice scenes, and when I looked up at who played him afterwards, I was shocked it was Tom Welling. Yes, Mr. Smallville himself. I wouldn’t mind seeing Welling in more films.
The other great performance was from Jennifer Garner, an actress I feel is seriously over-looked, and plagued with mediocre movies. As good as Garner was though as the football know it all salary cap manager, I have a couple complaints with the character. Her and Sonny have a romantic tension, and every time this storyline rears its ugly head, it slows down the movie. The bigger problem though, and this is a common trope in a lot of sports films, is the beating you over the head female character who knows just as much about sports as the men, maybe even more. Now I want to be clear about this – I’m all for having these characters. That’s great. But there’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. In Draft Day, you have Garner’s character, Ali, spouting off football facts to the point where it’s just ridiculous. We get it, she’s really knowledgeable about football, and had to struggle to get to this position. It’s so over the top. I want to have more sports-centric female characters, but the dialogue should be more natural. If it’s shoved in my face, I’m just going to get annoyed.
Speaking of annoying, as much as I love the war room football atmosphere, some of the football-isms did piss me off. I absolutely detest Chris Berman’s on air shtick. Yeah, I said it. I’m sorry, it’s just painful. So when the movie begins with him doing a voice over with the most hackneyed speech ever written, but Chris Berman-ized, the movie had no where to go but up. The film also tries to be hip and cool by mentioning Adam Schefter, and I found that pretty irritating. It’s not because I have anything against Adam Schefter, it’s just the way his name gets dropped. It’s such a blatant attempt at “Oh, look how cool and knowledgeable we are about football. We just mentioned Adam Schefter. Ooooooooooooooo.” I think Mel Kiper pops up at one point as well, and he’s on that Chris Berman level for me. I literally think Mel Kiper’s only job is to just make draft boards. I hate how every time I want to read about the NFL draft, the 85th revision of his 7th draft board is shoved in my face. Being a New England Patriots fan, it always warms my heart when Bill Belichick goes so far off the beaten path in the draft, and we get to see Mel Kiper’s face as his little draft board lies in shambles because of it. Sorry, I’ll get back to the review.
Despite all the tropes, and one really annoying intern character, this is a thoroughly entertaining movie. Its also got some nice old school comedy between Costner’s character and a private investigator-type guy. And for all its clichés, there are some nice twists and turns at the end. It also gets you salivating for the real NFL draft. The NFL just has this power over me, and even though I liked this film, I’d love to see a serious/realistic take of a team going through draft day, sort of in the vein of Moneyball. Now that’s an interesting movie waiting to happen.
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)