There is something quietly comforting in the sheer professionalism and efficiency of a glossy studio picture like Draft Day. Here, is a movie that Hollywood excels in producing. All the basic principles of screenwriting, the time-tested methods of subtle light touch direction and pin-point casting of supporting players to round-out a veteran cast, combine for an effortlessly enjoyable romp. Perhaps, a bit too venerable in the case of casting Costner in a role that feels like it was written for a thirty-somethings actor.
Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is the son of a beloved former coach, recently deceased. He’s also the current general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Now, on one of the most important days of the year, Sonny has to juggle domestic problems along with which players to recruit. To start the morning his girlfriend/co-worker (Jennifer Garner) announces she’s pregnant, the team’s eccentric owner (Frank Langella) wants to go after the #1 pick, and the team’s coach (Denis Leary) is engaged in a power struggle for more control.
After Sonny cuts a deal with Seattle that grants him that team’s first-round pick, a cocky seemingly perfect QB, he immediately comes under fire from all angles for his decision. The draft is 234 players deep, but the story focuses on three players Vonte Mack (Chadwick Boseman), Ray Jennings and Brain Callahan. Sonny must justify his deal with everyone from team personnel to the media.
I’m a devout Kevin Costner fan, I have awarded more four star reviews per capita to his films than any other star. However, he’s a bit long in the tooth to be playing a character with this level of domestic insecurity. When his announces that he is expecting a baby with his girlfriend, he tells his mother “you’re going to be a grandma.” Ellen Burstyn is 82 years old, she should be a great grandma by now. Either cast younger all around, or re-tailor the subplot to have a more mature angle on the material.
Outside of my minor quibbles, Draft Day is a perfectly enjoyable sports/romantic comedy/drama. It rests closer to the warm-themed Jerry MacGuire than the calculated mechanics of real-world sports management presented in Moneyball. Once again, Chadwick Boseman exudes star charisma and instant credibility. This guy is the next Will Smith, mark my words. Draft Day would have been a bigger hit had it been released in 1996, but as for today, it shines as a nice glossy throwback to the modern golden age of the studio dramedy.
Director: Ivan Reitman
Stars: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Chadwick Boseman