Draft Day Movie Review
In the NFL-endorsed Moneyball wannabe Draft Day, the Seattle Seahawks are the worst team in the league, lack a quarterback and have the #1 pick headed into the highly anticipated day. While the movie is a work of fiction, the disparity between reality - the Seahawks are the reigning Super Bowl champions - and said fiction is glaring. And that's the least of Draft Day's problems.
The movie stars Kevin Costner, an actor seeking a comeback after a career flat line 15 years earlier. Costner has starred in three movies in 2014 so far. The first was Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. The other two, including Draft Day, are not even remotely good.
Costner has his usual Costner charm as he plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, who turns out to be the worst general manager in the league (well, at least the movie gets that right). The morning of Draft Day, he trades away the future of his franchise to get the #1 pick to recruit a coveted college quarterback - even though his team already has a franchise quarterback. He spends the rest of the day, which I can only imagine in the real world is intense, exciting, exhausting and stressful, bickering with family members, trying to tell the woman he's having an affair with (Jennifer Garner) that he loves her and attempting to salvage his career and team after the aforementioned trade.
Remember those scenes in Moneyball where Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) was conducting trades left and right to improve his team? They were brief, to-the-point and highly entertaining. Draft Day so clearly wants to be the Moneyball of the NFL, except it entirely misses the mark.
It should have been a movie that takes a deep dive into the complexities of predicting other teams' picks, making trades and shifting players around to better the Cleveland Browns. It could have been a thrilling, breathless, war room affair that doesn't let up for two hours, exuding the intensity and excitement that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell most certainly wanted to showcase when he signed off on giving Hollywood access to the NFL brand.
Instead, director Ivan Reitman, who arguably hasn't made a good movie in nearly 20 years, was hired and made a lighthearted, listless, bland and occasionally stupid drama that misses a huge opportunity to be awesome. Reitman attempts to modernize things with annoying split screen conversations and other random conventions to prove he's still capable of helming a movie, but it all feels desperate. Unnecessary. Paint to gloss over the defects.
Draft Day has plenty of flaws, but its biggest sin is bowing to Hollywood clichés rather than making the most of the material available. Many of the plot points are downright head scratching. On one of the most important days of the year, why would the GM's football-loving mother (Ellen Burstyn) insist to spread her recently deceased husband's ashes on that day of all days? Why would his girlfriend, who also is a senior member of his staff, choose that day of all days to be so dramatic? Why would he spend hours futzing around doing nothing when he should be in the war room with his analysts finalizing plans for the hundred or thousand scenarios that could happen in the coming hours? The movie just focuses on all the wrong things.
The film's one saving grace is that, when all is said and done, it's still mildly entertaining. Reitman keeps things light and as a result manages to evoke a few laughs, a few pleasing moments and an ending that is halfway satisfying.
But playing it safe doesn't work in the NFL, and it doesn't work here. Draft Day is a movie that wastes its massive potential at every turn.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.