It isn’t very common to see the romantic leads of a motion picture go nearly the entire length without kissing. But in the case of “Draft Day”, this turns out to be a blessing. After the opening credits hint at preparations for the 2014 NFL Draft day at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Kevin Costner’s character is getting dressed in his fancy Cleveland crib. As he walks across his bedroom, a mirror angles to reveal a woman’s back through the steamy glass of a shower door.
This woman turns out to be Jennifer Garner’s character, and the viewer can’t help but feel a little grossed out. Costner is 59, Garner is a quite-recent 42. Aside from the rather large age gap, the pair don’t have the right kind of chemistry. If Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph could jump into a time machine and go back and change one thing about the screenplay, it should be to change the relationship between Sonny Weaver Jr.(Costner) and Ali(Garner) to a father-daughter one. Not that it would make the film an altogether better one.
Of course, this film seems primed to try and capitalize on the smart, successful “Moneyball”, but the screenplay just isn’t that sharp. And while “Moneyball” was based on a true story, the best moments in “Draft Day” are pure manufacture. The story doesn’t flow organically. When the actual draft kicks off in the last half hour of the film, things get a little more entertaining. But the rest is a hodgepodge of telephone conversations between Sonny and other NFL team general managers, interspersed with bits of Ali and Sonny trying to work out their relationship and weak attempts at humor involving the new intern.
At least the telephone conversations utilize a neat split-screen effect where the dividing line seems to bob and sway between the two talking parties. At one point, one end of the conversation walks across the screen, transposing the two figures. For a moment, it distracts from the dialogue, which may be a bad thing for a movie so dependent on it. But these moments add some much needed energy.
Perhaps “Draft Day” should have just stuck to sports. The private conversations between Sonny and Ali are annoying as they try to sort out their relationship(which, without any back story, seems like it merely involves Ali sleeping over from time to time). They talk as if they should be in dormitories, not mature, middle-aged executives. When Ali peels away from Sonny’s home in her fancy sports car, one can’t help but wonder why she’s driving so recklessly with the state she’s in. Yep, that’s right: not only are they a gross-out couple, but Ali is carrying Sonny’s baby!
As “Draft Day” progresses, guessing on whether or not Garner and Costner will actually kiss onscreen becomes far more entertaining than the film itself. Finally it happens, but thankfully only once. “Draft Day” is an okay movie that just doesn’t have the compelling setup that a film like “Moneyball” had. The filmmakers certainly try to fake it for a while, but end up tacking on filler like Sonny and Ali’s relationship and Sonny’s relationship with his mother. This will make for a decent rental, but Garner and Costner should be a lock for Worst Onscreen Couple of the year. Finish the popcorn quick; the bag might just come in handy for anyone starting to feel nauseous.