Director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters,” “Stripes”) returns to directing in “Draft Day,” a comedy-drama set in the world of football. Although light on actual intriguing content, the film largely gets by on the easy-going charm of Kevin Costner.
Costner, who recently returned to the the limelight following his well-received appearance in the TV miniseries “Hatfields and McCoys” (2012), takes back his leading man mantle as Sonny Weaver, Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. The film takes place during the span of one very long day, arguably the most electric day for the franchises: NFL Draft Day.
Weaver, trying to make the best decisions for the team, finds himself pulled in all directions. First, his secret relationship with a Brown’s executive, Ali (Jennifer Garner), has resulted in her just-revealed pregnancy. Second, the Cleveland Brown’s owner, Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), heavily pressures Weaver to “make a splash” in order to invigorate the Browns and fire up the team’s fan base. And, third, the team’s new, aggressive Coach Penn (Denis Leary) wants very specific holes filled in the franchise's lineup. Throughout the day’s time crunch, Weaver finds himself having to balance the needs of many with his gut feelings to build a real future for the team.
The film is nowhere near as compelling as "Moneyball" (2011), a movie that detailed the fascinating new strategy (that railed against convention) to assemble players for the Oakland A's. In truth, “Draft Day’s” first 90 minutes are really rather run-of-the mill and benign (with only a few chuckles) as we see Weaver struggle with decision-making. The film comes a bit more alive in its last 30 minutes when Draft Day dealings are in full swing, but its reveals are relatively minor compared to the time the audience has invested.
Of note, Costner is actually quite charming during his beaucoup screen time and keeps the meager plot moving forward. Nonetheless, Costner and Garner never seem to develop much on-screen chemistry together. Although both are believable in their respective roles, they seem they never really create a silver screen rapport that would have helped fill in the film’s gaps.
Reitman does throw in some nice touches to keep the plot clear and streamlined for football novices (block letters appear on-screen when new football teams are brought into discussion) and engages the viewer with fascinating parsed panels across the screen that have a 3D-like effect, allowing actors to cross over panels while still keeping sidedness clear for the viewer. But, in all, this is a mildly pleasant, chatty football film about the business of football without seeing much actual play, about a relationship without much chemistry, and about dealings and double-dealings without much intrigue. “Draft Day” is rated 3 of 5 stars.
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