Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language and sexual references. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 11, 2014 Released by: Summit Entertainment
Kevin Costner has been in some memorable sports films, including Field of Dreams, and his latest, Draft Day, on the surface would seem to emphasize passion and conviction for the game. The love of the sport now being football as the NFL gets to showcase itself before the actual draft happens again later this month at Radio City Music Hall where many heads may spin around the top draft choices, especially Texas A & M's Johnny 'Football.'
Ironically, in Ivan Reitman's countdown film that may appeal most to Cleveland Browns fans and Fantasy Football devotees (as well as those who love to tour the many well-accoutered stadiums of many a franchise) which is enjoyable enough but not dramatically well-nourished the recent Super Bowl champs the Seattle Seahawks are prominent to the wheelings and dealings as one tries to keep track of the plethora of names and faces.
You know what Costner's burdened Browns general manager Sonny Weaver, Jr. writes on a little green piece of paper will be important later in what features many cameos and old NFL clips like a 49ers/Bengals matchup. It's caught up in the Twitter-verse as folks find out about decisions not long after there made to the dismay of how social media can swerve perceptions and create quite a stir. Sonny is living down firing his father and now is planning on starting a family with Browns savvy/under the salary cap exec. Ally (Jennifer Garner, in sensitive businesswoman mode, who provided notable support in the true-life drama Dallas Buyers Club) called Amy by Sonny's distraught mom Barb (Ellen Burstyn) who has directions about what to do with her late husband's ashes.
Reitman (who's finally getting around to Ghostbusters III and has succeeded more as a producer than a director in some time) allows for a heart vs. head dilemma to develop in a pressured Sonny. Early on he agrees to trade the Browns' future for the first overall pick which the Seahawks have, presumably stud quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence). It makes Browns owner (Frank Langella) so happy he doesn't have to take his sunglasses off, but doesn't sit well with Coach Penn (Denis Leary).
What about Sonny's original draft choice, a defensive stalwart (a buff Chadwick Boseman of 42) or Penn's stressing of gifted, ambivalent tailback Ray Jennings (Arian Foster of the Houston Texans) with his father (former NFL's Terry Crews of The Expendables and much earlier White Chicks) with him and giving advice as the big event nears.
It does take a while for Draft Day to truly get going as well-dressed athletes and media personnel congregate as tickets are sent and teams are on the clock. Some investigating (with plenty of conversation and going through the old tapes) and support from Ally (Garner has a pleasant but tough when necessary presence especially when it comes to an intern whose computer Sonny inadvertently smashes) confirms the inveterate, steely character of Sonny which will be off-putting to more than a few for awhile before they understand and are in awe of how the Browns can be in a more unlikely place after putting the Jacksonville Jaguars higher-ups on the hot seat.
Where Bo Callahan ends up even sits well with an executive (Chi McBride) as it keeps his franchise good with the salary cap. The many faces playing themselves or less developed characters include very well-compensated owner friendly NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, famed broadcaster Chris Berman, broadcasters and ex-coach/players like Jon Gruden and Deion Sanders.
Even with some later flourishes there isn't the rewarding payoff of a Moneyball or even a lesser Costner vehicle when the actor was a washed-up Tigers pitcher For Love of the Game. In Sonny there is a character Costner can shade with enough plausibility as jobs are on the line in a sport where the questionable and the heroic, if unblemished can have their 'draft day' in the sun.