Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Draft Day Review

Draft Day Review
It easy to make a movie about a particular piece of culture. What's not easy is to make that movie appeal to the general audience. In particular "Draft Day" is about a very specific day in our nation's National Football League. I love football and I love the NFL. I grew up in a house that was glued to the TV every Sunday, all day long. While most of the world by agree, not everybody agrees. My awesome girlfriend didn't really get into football until I got serious with my friends in fantasy football and still, she isn't an avid watcher. There are always different strokes for different folks in this world and I firmly believe in that ideal. 

"Draft Day" is not a normal movie of this style. "Draft Day" is a movie that can appeal to the general audience, no matter who sits down to watch it. Fans of football will be fascinated by the world of drafting and just how much knowledge and effort goes into drafting players for the NFL. We as the audience really get a deep understanding of the NFL Draft Day from a business point-of-view. I've got a couple of college buddies who love football dearly, who also happened to graduate college with business degrees. I have no doubt that they will love this movie. For people who do not really watch football, they will be reeled into the interesting story, brought to life by two wonderful leads in Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. The film was directed by Ivan Reitman, who brought us the magnificent "Ghostbusters" in 1984, one of my personal favorite films, has delivered a riveting drama. He also sprinkles some good humor here and there which adds to the flavor of the film. 

"Draft Day" takes place on the eve of the first round picks for the 2014 NFL season. Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Sonny has had a long history with the Browns, and the success of the team matters a great deal to him. The entire film focuses on Weaver's battle with the Seattle Seahawks over who will get the first round pick, who is Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner from University of Wisconsin. How Weaver handles the deal, how he works within the draft and how he is able to make moves for the benefit of the Browns is what "Draft Day" is all about, and its all captivating.

The biggest positive "Draft Day" has for it is Costner, who gives a effortless and talented performance. Costner has been in a real swing lately, but I loved him even before that. I don't know why he fell out of film for what seems like a millenia and I do not care. He is back in full form now and he is absolutely crushing it. No matter what movie he is in or what character he is playing, he is absolutely crushing it. Jennifer Garner plays Ali Parker who is a lawyer for the Cleveland Browns and Weaver's secret girlfriend. I must say that for a long period of time, I did not really like Garner as an actress. I simply felt she made poor decisions. She seems to be in witless comedies a lot, she seems to play a bimbo a lot and she was involved in a superhero franchise that...well...let's not get into that. I have to say though that she may have found her footing. Miss Garner, if you ever read this, try to find more roles like Ali Parker in the future. It seems Garner lights up when she has someone smart and grounded to play. It seems she is perfect when she can play somebody who does not have any major character transitions. If Garner can conjure more work like this and score more roles like this, she'll become more respected in no time. And, dare I say it, maybe even be awarded an Oscar nod. That's just my two cents though.

The supporting cast is equally solid. Actors like Frank Langella, Terry Crews, Sam Elliot, Chi McBride, Tom Welling, Denis Leary and Ellen Burstyn all do very good work in the movie. Plus, the film is full of so many memorable faces who all do outstanding work that it almost feels overwhelming. Did you like Chadwick Boseman in last years "42?" You'll love him in "Draft Day." Do you like David Ramsey in TV's "Arrow?" You'll love him in Draft Day. Even somebody like Sean Combs does very personal, calculated work as a sports agent. I personally love that Pat Healy, who did near-perfect work in "Cheap Thrills" earlier this year had some good scenes in this movie. Like I said, the supporting cast is solid and everybody gets a great moment to shine.

I know I said that the movie would appeal to the general audience and I genuinely believe that. But I have to admit that the NFL jargon gets pretty over-saturated after awhile, and maybe some people who don't watch football on a regular basis could get bored. I can also honestly say that if the movie focused more on the draft and how it works, the film would have been stronger overall. The many sub-plots of the movie do not really work because they simply are not fleshed out enough. All movie long Ali and Sonny discover that they are going to have a baby, and there is suppose to be some emotional payoff by the end of the film due to that sub-plot. The emotional punch of the sub-plot is never felt because it never fully thrives. There is also so much to learn about Sonny's past and why the Browns mean so much to him. Its sad that none of it really matters in the script. Yes, there are big personal issues that steer Sonny as a person, but its never fully explored, never fully realized. Sometimes, "Draft Day" feels like it drifts into another movie entirely, which can get kind of annoying after awhile.

No matter, there is still a lot to like about "Draft Day" if you open your mind and enjoy. Hats off to Costner and Garner for taking a fairly one-dimensional script and making something real out of it. This movie didn't need to matter, but both Costner and Garner made it matter. The great acting and humor are all just a big bonus. This will be a gorgeous, unnoticed hit and I hope you jump to it before everybody gets a chance to check it out.

FINAL GRADE: B

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