^ not much of a draft picker : Kevin Costner as NFL GM Sonny weaver, Jr (with Jennifer Garner) in Ivan Reitman’s “Draft day”
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Here’s something new : Kevin Costner back in a sports movie. Ok, maybe not new, but this time it’s football and not baseball, and he’s traded his cleats for a front office job. “Draft Day” is supposed to be a funny quirky race against the clock, cum romance, like “Jerry Maguire,” but it’s no all that funny. Costner does his job channeling his signatures : assured nonchalance as Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the Cleveland Browns.
The film starts off on the morning of the big titular day with Sonny going back and forth with his girlfriend Ali (Jennifer Garner) about who he might pick, and of course she has some big news to tell him, but his phone keeps ringing. Cleveland has the number one pick in the draft and everyone wants it because there’s a QB out there who’s the next Tom Brady (which is ironic because the team that’s after him the most, the Seattle Seahawks, have Russell Wilson and just won the Super Bowl; kind of the same post- shoot conundrum that afflicted “Fever Pitch” when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 76 years and the filmmakers had to scurry to stay with the times).
Sonny, who fired his beloved Dad as head coach, seems to be a front office bonehead as he trades away the team’s next three number one picks and appears to be on the verge of being shown the door by the team’s owner (Frank Langella) who’s just as concerned about flash and pomp as he is about winning. It doesn’t help that Ali works for the Browns as well, and they’re not out as a couple, even though everyone knows.
In short Sonny’s in a world of shit and I won’t even mention the issues with his mother (Ellen Burstyn), ex-wife (Amanda Peet) or his new head coach (Denis Leary playing a Barry Switzer-esque role in that he had a Super Bowl ring because he inherited a championship caliber club).
As the clock winds down in the fourth quarter, the whole back and forth of the deal becomes more tiring than successive spring training sessions, as does the “are they, or aren’t they?” water cooler talk. All the actors are fine, it just feels like they’re given saw dust to recite and a circuitous plot that offers few gems as payoff for the rigor. It’s a neat premise and there are some attempts at deepening the human interest aspect of it (a star athlete trying to get paid to support his family of slim means vs. the flash QB who may not be all he appears to be), but the drama of the real draft and the unscripted nature of it, bears far more intrigue and consequence.
Next time producer/director Ivan Reitman (“Ghost Busters”) should draft a better team of writers.
—- Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies
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