Overview: It’s Draft Day in Cleveland and General Manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is doing his best to bring a Super Bowl back to the city. Summit Entertainment; Rated R; 109 Minutes.
The Bad: Phone conversations are displayed through an odd and off-putting split screen technique , segmenting the action into boxes. The application of this technique makes the film feel like a labored trip through a comic book, featuring Roger Goodell as the super hero 87% of the time. All I could think of the whole time was Spider Man 3… Yeah, Spider Man 3 (the bad one). On top of that, the characters use unrealistically obvious dialogue to hold our hands the entire time. What NFL fan does not know what city the Browns are in? Or any NFL team for that matter? Insiders and broadcasters, to create movie exposition, make common knowledge assertions and utilize graphics of what should be understood knowledge: “Houston. Home of the Texans,” a textual slap of obvious knowledge across the face of any actual NFL fans watching. These sequences sync with some atrocious music cues. This film, at times, almost feels like a two hour commercial for the league directed by a college kid who just learned iMovie. As Ali, Jennifer Garner is George Bush-like in her own self-pleasure, amused by her own wit in ways that exclude the audience from the joke. And the GM of the Seahawks (Patrick St. Esprit) establishes himself as this comic book’s villain, think The Hypno-Hustler, complete with exaggerated expressions and empty bad guy sentiment.
The Good: As Sonny Weaver Jr. and Coach Penn, Kevin Costner and Dennis Leary are perfect together when they share the screen. Their interactions are the most compelling part of the film. Leary, surprisingly, plays a pro coach as well as anyone ever has. But Costner steals the film, as he often positions himself to do. Costner drives the film to its final moments and offers some of his best work in the last 15 minutes. Director Ivan Reitman steers the movie as well as you’d expect. We all know his track record (Ghostbusters, Stripes, Junior). Reitman has a steady, if unoriginal feel for shot composition (split-screen debacle notwithstanding) and a great ear for dialogue that shows in the Costner/Leary exchanges, which are the film’s highlight.
Finally: Draft Day is more an advertisement than an exposé regarding the NFL’s Draft Day operations. The film falters with its comic book style and arrangement and its weak supporting actors. In the end, it puts together a mildly successful stumbling drive, as Kevin Costner carries his team to…. well, field goal position?