Film Review: Draft Day

by Chad Liffmann on April 11, 2014

Warning: This film may offend filmmakers, women, and football fans.

Kevin Costner contemplates his previous decision to be in this film.

Kevin Costner mulls over his decision to be in this film.

What’s wrong with the above image?  That’s correct, those black and white photos on the wall behind Kevin Costner are photographs of football, not baseball.  Kevin Costner has starred in some of the greatest baseball movies of all time.  He’s well known for his love of our national pastime. So why take a crack at a football movie?  It’s hard to blame the filmmakers for attempting to bring some entertainment value to the behind-the-scenes world of football, specifically the strategizing and efforts put into the bizarre tradition that is the NFL draft day.  Such a behind-the-scenes attempt worked for Moneyball (2011).  But Draft Day falls flat because the storyline is carried on the shoulders of contrived characters, a pathetic depiction of a female executive in the sports world, and very poor editing choices.

The story is fairly simple: We follow Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) as he navigates the pressures, difficult choices, and deadlines of the NFL draft day in order to build the team he’s always imagined for himself and his city.  Oh, and he has to navigate an undefined romantic relationship with the Browns’ salary cap executive, Ali (Jennifer Garner).  Yes, at the heart of this “football movie” is a love story.  I don’t remember one of those in Moneyball, thank goodness.

Overall, many people will enjoy Draft Day because its a fun movie.  There’s no doubt that it has entertainment value and could satisfy the casual moviegoer and/or football buffs that love anything that have to do with football.  I met an Uber driver from Cleveland who’s excited to see it.  But deeper analysis (okay, not that deep) into Draft Day turned up some offensive choices, and I wish to review those with you:

Offensive to football:  There’s no argument that most sports movies don’t accurately capture how the business side of sports or the games themselves really work.  The same goes for Draft Day.  We’re treated to the do-good, righteous executives and the plotting, “villainous” executives (I was satisfied that the Seattle Seahawks organization was selected for the latter).  The dialogue is hallmark channel worthy.  The events that take place are contrived — the coveted top prospect may be a bust?  The never-heard-of-him prospect may be an angel with an uncontested love of the game and also of all creatures great and small!?  C’mon!  Give us the real deal!

Offensive to women:  It’s apparent that in crafting Jennifer Garner’s character, the filmmakers were attempting to show a strong female in a man’s world.  She loves football.  Okay, that comes across easily.  But, when her only line of dialogue in the film that isn’t clouded with romantic emotions comes within the first few minutes and has nearly zero impact on the story, it’s apparent what her purpose in the film really is.  Yes, her purpose is to support Weaver and give the story some good ole’ fashioned romance.  This isn’t helped by the fact that the only other two female characters in the movie, Sonny’s mother and Sonny’s ex-wife, are just there to challenge Ali’s romantic efforts.  Oh, but she’s a really messy eater! Doesn’t that prove something!?  No, it doesn’t.

Offensive to editors:  I saw Draft Day with a graphic designer/accredited film editor.  After the film, he was laughing at the editing choices made to spice things up in the film.  Perhaps mimicking a comic book effect, many phone conversations in Draft Day occur in uneven split screens with characters overlapping the splits (see image below).  This effect is just distracting and messy, and at times confusing.  The sleek visuals, shiny location titles, and vibrant colors can’t shake an otherwise dull script.

It's like...they're right next to each other!

It’s like…they’re right next to each other!

So if you’re not a member of one or multiple of the above groups, you might enjoy Draft Day.  The segment in which Weaver commands the Browns’ war room during the actual draft is fun to watch.  Otherwise, this is a movie best left for a Sunday night Netflix stream or when it’s inevitably shown on TV during the next NFL season.  As for deciding what to go see in theaters, this wouldn’t be my #1 pick.

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Draft Day opens in theaters April 11, 2014.

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