The NFL Draft has grown into a big business.
There are literally hundreds of websites, pundits, and magazines making money hand over fist on the (intelligent sounding, but in the end largely random) speculation on which teams will draft which college kids. Smoke, mirrors, and the Wonderlic, baby!
Hell, the draft itself, the actual event, has turned into a cash cow, having been moved from a two day Saturday/Sunday affair to a three day affair, with Thursday and Friday (the first two days) each in prime time.
So it was just a matter of time before a feature film on the draft hit the big screen. Enter Draft Day.
On Radio Row, at Super Bowl XLVIII, we had the chance to interview Kevin Costner, who was on a promotional tour for Draft Day at the time and stars in it as Sonny Weaver, Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. During the interview, the one quote that stood out was Costner’s quest to “make a classic,” and he thought they accomplished that with Draft Day.
Well, The Godfather and Casablanca can rest easy, because I don’t think that “classic” status was achieved with Draft Day, however, I think that it landed squarely in the category of “highly enjoyable.”
(SIDE BAR ON COSTNER: While his line about “making a classic” was the most memorable line from the conversation, the most memorable moment was actually not audible on the radio. As I was sitting directly to Costner’s right, my cell phone was on the table in front of us and began vibrating during the interview. Thinking it was his phone, Costner picked it up and looked at it. As my partner Rich Lord was asking Costner a question, I whispered to him that the phone was mine, at which point he reached over and twisted my left nipple. So yes, Kevin Costner got to second base with me right there on Radio Row!)
Ok, let’s answer the questions that I think most of you will have about the movie, ok?
So, what was it about?
Draft Day was a throwback to your typical Kevin Costner sports movie of the 1987 through 1996, where sports is used as the backdrop for a some story of the greater good, like love or family (or, in the case of Draft Day, both). Costner plays Sonny Weaver, Jr., the embattled general manager of the downtrodden Cleveland Browns. Under the demands of his owner (a decent hybrid of Jerry Jones, Jim Irsay, and Donald Sutherland’s CEO character in Disclosure) to “make a splash,” Weaver makes all sorts of unprecedented draft moves to bring Cleveland a winner. In the process, we learn about the importance of family (Weaver’s tenuous relationship with his mother after the death of his father the year before, his father who happened to be the Browns’ previous coach and was fired by Weaver), the importance of love (Jennifer Garner, Weaver’s salary cap expert, is also his girlfriend and carrying his baby), and the human condition (various draftees, each embodying some totally desirable or utterly undesirable trait that NFL teams must peel back before making a decision). The movie actually takes place all in the same day (Draft day!), and is charted with the occasional embedding of a 24 style clock to help us count down to the draft. By the end of the movie, it feels a little like a season of 24 where you say to yourself “Damn, they packed a lot of stuff into one day!”
How authentic did it feel?
With the hardcore involvement of the NFL, and the participation of virtually every personality from ESPN and the NFL Network, the floor for authenticity on this movie was going to be an A-, at worst. Roger Goodell’s actually having a speaking part in the movie added to that. So the NFL feel of it, along with the persecution and self loathing of the Cleveland fan base, all felt really authentic. The parts that were a major reach, to me at least:
1. Denis Leary’s portrayal of the Browns’ head coach was so over the top that, at times, it felt like he was supposed to be comic relief. His 1980’s style sweatsuit jacket (which never came off) was icing on the cake.
2. Without spoiling the movie by providing detail, just know that the moves Costner’s GM character makes in the movie are so reckless that he would have been fired sometime shortly after the first pick in the draft. It was really hard to suspend disbelief for the transactions.
3. At one point, the Browns current quarterback trashes the GM’s office because it appears that the Browns might be drafting a quarterback. I tried to envision Matt Schaub doing this to Gary Kubiak, but there’s no way that would have ever happened. At worst, Schaub knocks over a few plants before actually going back and cleaning up his mess because he feels bad.
How did Arian Foster do?
Foster played the role of Ray Jennings, a Browns’ legacy (Jennings’ dad played for them) and a Florida State running back with some police blotter items for the Browns to look past if they want to draft him. Foster was very solid in the role, which comprised a total of about three or four minutes on screen, even showing an emotional side of his character while sitting in the green room. If this was Foster’s audition for more work down the road, he will probably get it.
How much did you enjoy it?
This will sound like faint praise, but if you know my level of impatience with which I walk around perpetually bottled inside of me, then you know it’s not — there wasn’t a single time that I looked down at my watch during Draft Day to see what time it was or how much time the movie had left. And I almost always do that during movies, even ones that I like.
Honestly, I didn’t need the ancillary storylines having to do with Garner’s character’s pregnancy or Weaver’s family baggage to enjoy the movie, but I get why they were there. Got to draw the non-draft dork crowd in somehow. I would have been just fine with all of the draft day wheeling and dealing scenes to go with the character development of the draftees.
The bottom line — if you’re a hardcore NFL fan, you will really like the movie, and if you’re not a hardcore NFL fan, it just depends on how much you like Kevin Costner.
OVERALL RATING: A solid 3.97 out of 5.00