Monday, April 21, 2014

[Review] Draft Day

The managerial aspects of an NFL Draft is a questionable concept for a feature length film, but there's an abundance of behind-the-scenes factors that create plenty of drama. There's the difficult task of choosing the right pick (or the initially apparent right pick), the risk/reward, the option of positions, the trading and maneuvering, and the pressure to not look like an idiot, or the repercussions of making an unpopular decision.

Kevin Costner stars as Sonny Weaver, fictional manager of the Cleveland Browns. Early on, Sonny makes a trade with the Seahawks in order to get the number one overall draft pick. The surefire "slamdunk" player, according to John Gruden, goes by the name of Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), and it seems like the automatic decision, but Sonny isn't quite sold on him. He takes a personal interest in Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman of last year's 42), a lower projected pick. The film delves into all the tricky components that lead up to the big night.

Draft Day contains an over-calculated attempt to inject some sweetness into the story, detailing Sonny's relationship with his recently deceased father, his romance with Ali, a coworker played by Jennifer Garner. Also, Vontae Mack, the underdog pick, is immensely more likeable and developed than the superstar Bo Callahan. That stuff is all fine and dandy, but it always feels like a predictable checklist, rather than a profound weaving of heart and emotions. We pretty much know who Sonny is picking from the beginning, however, the climax pivots on the surprise reactions from everyone else, and the aftermath keeps things fresh by dealing out a couple twists.

It isn't surprising that we see a bunch of cameos from ESPN analysts and former NFL stars. Roger Goodell even makes an appearance. And Puff Daddy plays the role of an agent, because of course he does.

In a film that's filled with phone calls, clock-ticking, and highlight reels, the use of active split-screens is a nice touch. And the role as the stressed but savvy sports manager with a plan, couldn't be more perfect for Costner. Draft Day navigates that awkward fictional state of a sports film, but it's generally based in a present reality, and it seems like this is how some of the draft stuff goes down, although one may question the large amount of hope the film instills in the franchise of the Cleveland Browns.

Draft Day is watchable but there's nothing really overly special about it. It lacks the slick dialogue and sharpness of Moneyball, as well as the overall entertainment and humor of Jerry Maguire. Draft Day is a mediocre choice, but if anything, it works as a precursor for people to get pumped for the actual NFL Draft next month.


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