Friday, April 11, 2014

Draft Day Movie Review

Kevin Costner & Jennifer Garner (r) in Draft Day

He's Going Rogue!

Leave it to Ivan Reitman to make a football movie that alienates real football fans. The glue behind 80's classics Stripes, Ghostbusters and Kindergarten Cop looks to recapture former glory; but ultimately fails to do his homework, reducing America's favorite sport into the mother of all mid-life crises... wasting two solid performances by stars Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner in the process. Reitman's Draft Day ignores reality, as it peddles Costner as an all-knowing football guru who struggles with countless obstacles (age, family, legacy, love) on the most important day of his career.

IMDb Plot: At the NFL Draft, general manager Sonny Weaver has the opportunity to rebuild his team when he trades for the number one pick. He must decide what he's willing to sacrifice on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with NFL dreams.

What’s Best: I can't tell you why I like Costner, the actor; but I do. He's terribly low-key (some might say vanilla) but he seems to possess all the necessary intangibles that make a star... a star. Draft Day provides his character with countless perks (dream job, hot/substantially younger girlfriend, etc., in addition to plenty of pitfalls (daddy issues, ex-wife and an overbearing mother) while setting him up for inevitable success. Despite all the mistakes Sonny seems to make, it's hard not to root for him.

Garner's role is far from challenging, but she plays nice better than most. She also turns out to be a wonderful distraction... especially during some of Sonny's dumber moments (of which, there are many.)

What’s Not: Reitman manages to sprinkle fairy dust on the NFL's premier offseason event; and I for one, am not happy about it. You have to wonder if Reitman has ever been to a football game; yet alone, an actual draft war room. For one thing, the GM doesn't spend more than half the day hiding in bathrooms, closets, and other people's offices. He also doesn't make hair-trigger moves (such as trading the future of his team for a guy he hasn't even done a background check on yet.) Last but not least, when Sonny finally does tell his employees to do some investigating (just hours before the draft) they reply with, 'He has a website dedicated to all the chicks he's smashed.' Great work fellas!

On the technical side, Reitman employs (with great frequency) an irritating split screen technique, where the images often overlap. Sometimes barely, other times... one guy literally invades the other guy's space. WTF? I read one critic refer to it as "revolutionary." Really? James Cameron is revolutionary. So is Alfonso Cuarón. Ivan Reitman? I don't think so.

Draft Day seems made for people who don't know football... which is odd, considering the entire movie is about football. Does anyone care that Sonny's ex-wife (Rosanna Arquette... how random) shows up at his office with his mother? Or that Ali (Garner) just laid the "I'm pregnant" bomb on him? I didn't. By the time Draft Day ended, I didn't even care about the outlandish relationship between Sonny and Coach Penn (Denis Leary.)

Best Line: Speaking of Leary (Hollywood's most irksome actor?) He manages to deliver the movie's best line, 'I've got 52 Tarzans in that locker room. I could use a Jane,' during one of his many "battles" with Sonny... most of which are either dumb (Coach Penn walks into Sonny's office with his draft analysis literally in flames) or mean-spirited ('You're tappin' one of your execs,' in regards to Ali, right before poking fun at Sonny's recently deceased dad.)

Overall: Perhaps I'd like Draft Day more, if I didn't love football. This movie is painfully transparent; although I was surprised by how it all came to pass. I shook my head throughout; yet have to admit... I enjoyed bits and pieces. It's an amateur effort, put forth by a master filmmaker (in his day.) When Sonny's Cleveland Browns finally get "on the clock," Sonny isn't even in the draft room: Perhaps he should have been. Perhaps Reitman should have been too.

GradeD+