Sometimes, going to the movies is about getting a guaranteed spoonful of sugar when life gives you salt. You want to know beforehand that the protagonist wins against all odds and that you’ll enjoy your 90-minute escape, even if it’s contrived, over-acted, and has been done much better by other recent movies (*cough*Moneyball*cough). Draft Day is an NFL-sponsored Hallmark commercial, and as long as you’re cool with that, it’s a fun date night movie for football fans and non-fans alike.
Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) has had a rough couple of months. He’s the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, an unsuccessful football team on the brink of complete reorganization. Junior is also quietly trying to deal with the recent passing of his father, the former coach of the Browns, who Sonny actually fired for private reasons. As if that weren’t enough, his secret girlfriend and did-I-mention coworker, Ali (Jennifer Garner), finds out that she’s pregnant out of wedlock, much to the anticipated dismay of Sonny’s grieving mother (Ellen Burstyn). With the NFL Draft that night, the Browns owner (Frank Langella) demanding an attention-grabbing move, and the new coach (Denis Leary) doubting Sonny’s every step, Weaver struggles with picking the team he wants as opposed to the team everyone’s pressuring him into picking.
Juggling all of these story lines against the backdrop of a sports movie makes for an emotionally charged, but never really heavy hearted affair. Draft Day is slick, sweet, and easy to watch. The best scenes are actually between Costner and Garner, and they reminded me that he was once a serious leading man back in the Bodyguard days. The rest is melodrama with an NFL spit shine, with all honest and due respect to director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop, Up In The Air), a great filmmaker in my opinion.
It trades tackles for draft picks and uses every lump-in-the-throat gimmick in the book to propel its action, but presents itself at such a well-paced manner that you never really mind. Denis Leary is way over-acting, Ellen Burstyn deserved more screen time, and the entire plot is immensely predictable, but once again, that aside, I enjoyed this movie.
If you’re looking for something gritty about the realities of NFL back offices, Draft Day is not for you. If you’re looking for a romantic dramedy that you can drag your significant other to because it’s got football in it (or vice versa), it’s absolutely worth the time.