Makers of the new Kevin Costner film “Draft Day” are banking that rabid NFL fans will have as much interest in a fictional version of the annual draft as they do in the real one. Director Ivan Reitman rips back the curtain to show the process coaches and executives go through to select college football prospects for their team.
Just in case there’s not enough drama – and comedy – as last-second deals are being made, Reitman’s sprinkled in a few human interest stories. The combination isn’t a touchdown, but it does score a few points.
Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) is offered the opportunity by the Seattle Seahawks to trade three years of Browns draft picks for this year’s overall No. 1 selection. At stake is a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who on paper looks like a game changer.
Weaver makes the deal but soon regrets his decision, especially because it means two players who should be joining the Browns will be lost.
At the same time, Weaver is dealing with the death of his father, a worrisome mother (Ellen Burstyn) and his secret love in the office (Jennifer Garner). Costner shows he can still go deep as he takes his character from the mechanics and mysteries of the NFL draft to the emotional highs and lows of his personal life.
It’s odd to see Costner in a sports film that deals with something other than baseball. The common bond is that when you go to the core of any sport, the emotional center comes from the people and their passion for the game.
Where the film fumbles is the mix of reality and fantasy. The NFL gave the filmmakers unprecedented access to NFL facilities – even filming the real draft. It’s understandable that the names of the players being discussed in this fictional story wouldn’t be real, but there are still some jarring moments. It’s hard to look at Super Bowl XLVIII winners Seattle having the first pick – the spot reserved for the worst team in the NFL. It’s laziness on the part of the writers (Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph) not to have written a line suggesting the top pick came from a trade.
The film is a change for Reitman, who has never delved into the sports film world. He manages to find the right mix of football material to please those fans and personal stories to entertain those who have no interest in the X’s and O’s of the gridiron.
“Draft Day” shouldn’t be your No. 1 pick if you are looking for a great movie. But it does have enough talent to make it worth taking a chance on.