RATING: 1.5 stars (out of 4)
Just like Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Costner will continue making underdog sports movies until well after death. And now Father Time has yanked the aging Costner off the field and shoved him into the front office, so now he’s reduced to creating drama by staring at spreadsheets and negotiating trades over the phone.
In addition to being a two-hour commercial for the NFL’s most geeked-over event, Draft Day (opening April 11th) is also a love story and a tale of redemption and self-discovery. What it isn’t much of is a drama. The crux of the movie is whether Sonny (Costner), the Cleveland Browns’ millionaire exec, will lose his job after acting like a reckless, self-pitying baby.
Sonny–who is hurting because he fired his coaching legend father who died shortly after– juggles his stressful professional life with a secret office romance with the team salary cap gal (Jennifer Garner) and a rocky relationship with the team’s entitled prick of a coach (Denis Leary).
And Draft Day is ultimately a movie about making a movie that you can take your mom to, if just for the joy of glancing over at her during the sappy moments to realize that at least this is making one of you happy. Afterward, you can fake-smile and dubiously agree that it was great and pretend as though you had a moment.
Costner, who usually has a good eye and ear for sports movie authenticity, just doesn’t seem to care anymore. The movie sacrifices realism in the name of silly, overblown Lifetime movie moments. It’s tough to root for Sonny to keep his job when he acts like such an idiot. His strategy is to toss aside his underlings’ research and start off with a ridiculous, embarrassing trade, then convince GMs even dumber than himself to make even sillier deals with him so everything works out.
While the lunatic trade strategy may be a way of life all too familiar for fans of the Browns and Oakland Raiders, it’s more the stuff of a horror film than a feel-good Kevin Costner sports flick. Moneyball this is not.Whenever teams call up Costner to talk about a deal, the movie zaps to the city a caller is from. Subtitles condescendingly introduce cities subtitled over panoramics of their stadiums, then, follows it up with “Home of the” whatever team resides there. It’s the Dora the Explorer approach to transitions.
And then there are the glaring lies/errors, which sap away any clout the movie would have for football fans:
- A player who has been on the Browns for eight years brags about how he helped the team to the playoffs. The Browns last entered the promised land in 2002.
- A team jumps at a swap of a high first-round draft pick for three future second-rounders. This point-value chart shows that it takes at least four high second-rounders to make sense in a swap for a high first-rounder.
- The two teams that played in last year’s Super Bowl pick first and fifth, rather than 31st and 32nd. This could have been explained with a tiny snippet of dialogue that the teams earned the spots from previous trades, but the movie doesn’t bother.
This may be trivial stuff, but when you take on an ultra-geeky topic like the NFL Draft, that sort of thing is important for believability’s sake. At least the movie absolutely nails the dysfunctional, pathetic execution of the Cleveland Browns’ front office. The movie also does too good of a job at replicating the angst and misery Browns are used to feeling most Sunday afternoons.
Starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Denis Leary and Ellen Burstyn. Written by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Rated PG-13. 120 minutes.