Set on the NFL’s most stressful day, Ivan Reitman’s gridiron-comedy “Draft Day” highlights the wheeling and dealings by the league’s top executives during the annual college draft. Enter Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner), the downtrodden Cleveland Browns general manager who makes a series controversial moves, including firing his father as head coach, in aid of bringing a championship to the fledging franchise.
The film’s premises has the World-Champion Seattle Seahawks trying to unload their number one draft pick, flawed Heisman winning quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence) to the Browns for the Browns’ top draft picks over the next three seasons. I should mention with the timing of the film’s release, I can’t help but wonder if the filmmakers waited for the winner of Super Bowl XLVII (between the Seahawks and the Broncos) to cast which team would become Weaver’s foil.
That aside, on paper, Callahan looks like he’s a franchise player who could bring a championship to the Browns. However, to the dismay of Cleveland fans and the team’s coaches, Weaver has another pick in mind: ace linebacker Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) and running back standout Ray Jennings Jr. (Arian Foster), who wants to play for the Browns as his father Ray Jennings (Terry Crews) did back in the day.
To its credit, “Draft Day” has a ring of authenticity as Reitman had the full blessing of the NFL to use team’s logos, players, coaches and executives right down to Commissioner Rodger Goodell playing himself, although most the other characters are fictitious.
If you’re a sucker for sports movies, be warned, “Draft Day” isn’t in the same league as other Costner sports outings i.e., “Field of Dreams,” (‘89) and “Bull Durham” (‘88). However, it’s enjoyable when it concentrates on the pressures of negotiating and building a winning football team. The predicable subplots involve Weaver in a secret romance with the team’s salary-cap manager Ali (Jennifer Garner), a feud with Browns fiery coach (Denis Leary) and team owner Harvey Molina (Frank Langella) who is bent on firing him. But those storylines are just warmed-over fillers borrowed from other movies. That aside, the cast still manages to score a winning touchdown.
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