Saturday, May 31, 2014

Draft Day

As I've mentioned in some of my previous reviews, I'm a pretty big fan of sports movies. Two of my favorite films of last year were 42 and Rush, which featured sports I don't even follow that closely. However, with Draft Day I had a feeling I wasn't going to get the same level of quality I've enjoyed with previous films in the genre. Not only did it feel like a cheap Moneyball rip-off (which is probably my favorite sports movie ever), but the trailers made me think of a TV movie rather than a theatrical event.

It's draft day and Sonny Weaver Jr. has a difficult decision to make. His team (the Cleveland Browns) have been given the seventh pick in the draft, but he's facing a lot of pressure from the team's owner to make a flashy selection that might not necessarily help his team in the long run. With a subtle threat that his job is weighing in the balance, Sonny proceeds to make a seemingly fool-hardy trade with the Seattle Seahawks that would give them the first pick in the draft, though giving away his next three first-round picks in the process. Though many Cleveland Browns fans and employees are thrilled with the gutsy move, Sonny begins to wonder whether the draft's top prospect is truly worth pursuing and faces a dilemma as draft time ticks closer and closer.

I think I was thrown through a loop when I went into the theatre by assuming this story was based on true events. However, it's pretty clear from the get-go that this entire scenario is completely fictitious, making it a lot less impactful than its true-to-life contemporaries. It also forfeits the immediate concession the audience usually makes when it comes to cliched or predictable melodrama in sports films by not being based on real life. Since this is all something a screenwriter came up with to entertain a mass audience, it makes the story a lot less interesting and also kind of baffling as to why they chose to make this movie in the first place.

Draft Day has all the dramatic weight of a fantasy draft, with outrageous plot twists and mind-numbing character motivations that even decent actors are unable to successfully portray. While I've seen them do good work in other films, almost the entire cast (with the exception of Dennis Leary and possibly Chadwick Boseman) is completely flat. Kevin Costner saw a bit of a career resurgence with Man of Steel, but here he's kind of boring. They attempt to give him some contrived character arc with the recent passing of his father, but none of it really works. Don't even get me started on the ridiculous relationship between him and Jennifer Garner. Neither one of them seems like they're attracted to the other, and from the moment they appeared on screen I was shocked that it wasn't a father-daughter dynamic rather than a romantic involvement between the two actors.

Despite the dull characters and laugh-worthy attempts at drama, some of the trade talks in this film were actually entertaining. Don't get me wrong, it's not done half as well as in Moneyball, but there's still some general satisfaction from the wheeling and dealing portrayed in this film. Part of the reason I'm being a little more gentle with my star-rating this time around is the lack of pretense about what Draft Day is setting out to accomplish. While the general lack of ambition is admittedly kind of a problem, it also allows me to give it a slight pass for doing what it apparently was trying to do. All the storylines more or less pay off in the end, and the overly-Hollywood ending is somewhat satisfying as well.

Also, apparently this movie is rated R, which I wasn't aware of until I began writing this post. There is one F-word, but other than that it's really quite tame. I doubt you'll even notice a difference between this and any other PG-13 movie in terms of its content.

Other than that, there's nothing overly offensive about this film that would warrant me hating on it entirely, but its blandness and ultimately its pointlessness make this film an eye-rolling workout. Draft Day isn't a terrible film, but it doesn't justify even a discounted ticket price to see theatrically. If you're going to see it (and I'm not sure I recommend that you do), wait until it comes on TV or Red Box if you're really determined. I give Draft Day two and a half stars.

DRAFT DAY is rated R for brief strong language.

**What did you think of Draft Day? Am I too harsh or too forgiving? Let me know in the comments below!**