Baseball used to be America’s past time. But there is no questioning who holds the crown now. The National Football League has become an entertainment and sports goliath, so great, that it can make a fully endorsed film about its rookie draft. Not about a Cinderella team, great coach, iconic player, or tumultuous season, but about the interworking of its offseason. Let that sink in as I review Draft Day.
The film is a walking endorsement for the NFL (as if it needed it), using authentic teams, references to the actual NFL’s past, real ESPN and NFL Network analysts, and the commissioner himself. Only the players, coaches, and owners are fictitious. The Cleveland Browns (laughing stocks of the NFL to anyone who knows football) take center stage in this story, and it’s a former coach’s son, Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) who has the daunting task of rebuilding the franchise and making the right choice with the team’s seventh overall pick. If what I’ve written so far doesn’t resonate with you, then don’t bother seeing this movie. There are a few attempts made to help the non-football fan understand, but you’d honestly be wasting your time if you aren’t an NFL purist.
But if you are a die hard NFL fan, as I am, the movie is pretty fun. Costner humbly takes us through the chaotic and stress inducing hours that lead up to the draft. The owner (Frank Langella) has him under fire if he doesn’t make a popular fan choice by drafting the top quarterback (Josh Pence) and the new coach (Dennis Leary) wants the son of a former Brown (actual Texans running back Arian Foster making his acting debut) to be his new star running back. Meanwhile, all Sonny Weaver Jr. wants to do is pick the passionate defensive player that, for some reason, no one seems to care about (Chadwick Boseman).
There is a substantial amount of fairy taleness to the story. In fact, coincidence after coincidence helps Weaver ultimately fine redemption once the actual draft roles around. But the conveniences (and utter incompetence of some of the other teams involved) are only noticeable to the purists who follow the draft as much as the analysts on ESPN. There is also a forgettable love story wedged in between Costner and Jennifer Garner that doesn’t really matter. These sins can be forgiven if you’re watching the movie for the right reasons. If you go in expecting to get an NFL fix in the midst of baseball and basketball season or to appreciate the fast paced, wall street-esque world of being an NFL GM, then you’ll enjoy it. Even if the idea of the Cleveland Browns rising from the ashes seems far fetched (Sorry, but I’ll believe it when I see it). Then again… there’s no fault in dreaming.
FINAL GRADE: B-