Movie Review
Draft Day
Draft Day poster
By Craig Younkin     Published May 5, 2014
US Release: April 11, 2014

Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Kevin Costner , Ellen Burstyn , Jennifer Garner , Sam Elliott

PG-13 for brief strong language and sexual references
Running Time: 109 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $28,698,000
This is an hour and a half of tedious, preachy sentimentality followed by a half hour of absurd wish-fulfillment.
Craig Younkin is also a reviewer for Movie Room Reviews

A movie about the Cleveland Browns organization making smart decisions? You might as well throw in some walking/talking trees like Darren Aronofsky did with “Noah” and call it a fantasy. But no, Ivan Reitman’s “Draft Day” is a serious film, very serious, and not the good kind of serious that NFL fans will eat up like a 12 dollar hot dog at the stadium. This is an hour and a half of tedious, preachy sentimentality followed by a half hour of absurd wish-fulfillment that would have any real football fan on the floor laughing.
Kevin Costner stars here as Sonny, the Browns GM who’s feeling the pressure of turning his dismal team around, both from the fans and from the team’s owner (Frank Langella), who for some reason needs to bring Sonny to a water park to drive home the point that he wants Sonny to make a splash with this year’s draft.

A countdown clock alerts us every five minutes to how long we have until the draft starts, basically a trick by Reitman to drum up suspense in a movie that has none. What Sonny does is trade away the team’s future number one draft picks for the next couple of years for a number one this year, a Heisman-winning quarterback seemingly the most logical choice. But Sonny wants to be sure, so he has his entire team of draft analysts look at the quarterback while ignoring every other player in the draft (apparently no one told him the draft goes like 100 rounds now).

In order to drum up more drama here, screenwriters Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman pick draft day to also have Sonny’s girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) spring a pregnancy on him, have his mother (Ellen Burstyn) want to spread his dead father’s ashes over Brown’s field, and have Sonny come to blows with the teams new head coach (Denis Leary), who was a winner in a Dallas but is hesitant of the kind of team Sonny is trying to put together in Cleveland. You would expect a coach and GM to bump heads every once in a while, but I think they could come up with better dialogue than reducing players to “Tarzans and Janes.” I’m still not even sure I get what that means.

There’s also melodrama involving Sonny coming to terms with what he did to his father, who was a popular Browns coach before Sonny put him out to pasture, and moments where he stares blankly into the distance, remembering some long-ago football play that’s supposed to have some significance to life now but instead just comes off looking like Sonny is having a stroke.

Finally we get to the last half hour, the draft, where the dumb trades made by people up until this point spiral out into completely farfetched lunacy. Even worse is the dialogue the movie makes real ESPN analysts like Chris Berman and Rich Eisen say. It’s a movie and what Sonny is doing is supposed to be “inspiring,” I get that, but really you just want to see Berman be honest and say “What are these guys smoking back there in that war room?”

Deion Sanders and former Browns like Ray Lewis, Bernie Kosar, and Jim Brown make appearances and even Texans running back Arian Foster does some acting. Sadly, he does one of the better jobs here. Most others don’t really seem to care what they’re saying. Neither does Costner, who looks sleepy here and is never able to give weight to any of Sonny’s many dilemma’s. “Draft Day” is a tepid drama, a nonsensical sports film, and above all, a desperate heart-tugger.
Craig's Grade: C
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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