MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Kevin Costner as SONNY WEAVER JR.
Jennifer Garner as ALI PARKER
Denis Leary as VINCE PENN
Frank Langella as ANTHONY MOLINA
Tom Welling as BRIAN DREW
Ellen Burstyn as BARB WEAVER
Sam Elliott as COACH MOORE
Chadwick Boseman as VONTAE MACK
Rosanna Arquette as ANGIE
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
BY KEVIN CARR
Just ask anyone that knows me, and they’ll tell you that I don’t give two hoots about sports. My wife loves it, knowing that our house won’t be inundated with beer-drinking buddies during football season and out TV won’t be permanently tuned to ESPN.
However, even though I’ve never been a sports fan, I developed a certain amount of admiration for the Cleveland Browns via osmosis through living with my father, probably one of the most devoted Browns fans on the planet. (For example, with the exception of family tragedies, I don’t think I’ve ever seen his as upset as he was when Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore in the 1990s.)
So, I have a certain soft spot for the subject matter of a film like “Draft Day.” I even took my father to see it in theaters this past spring, and it is probably one of his favorite films of the year (obviously).
The story follows the first day of the NFL Draft in which Browns General Manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is trying to build a winning team. The fans in Cleveland – and the owner of the team (Frank Langella) – demand he pick the obvious choice, but Weaver has his own plans. With a day of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, Weaver tries to make magic happen with a series of trades and back-room deals.
Like “Moneyball” a few years back, “Draft Day” isn’t really about playing the sport. It’s about what goes on with the business end of the game. It’s a quite well-written piece, which takes the often complicated and convoluted process of the NFL Draft and makes it digestible to even the most uninterested non-fan (like myself).
There’s a bit of overdone pageantry to the entire process, though I suppose that was necessary to pander to the football fans seeing the movie as well as the NFL itself to allow them to use the licensed brands. However, the clear good guys in this scenario are the Cleveland Browns, even if there are some gray characters on that side (like the owner, who reeks a bit of Modell himself).
This was unavoidable because the film had to brand one of the teams as the winners, and while seeing success for the Cleveland Browns plays well in Ohio, it’s not going to soar in places like Pittsburgh or Denver for obvious reasons. Still, the movie presents the story to be about the characters, with Weaver struggling with the recent death of his father, a coach he recently fired. That’s the glue that holds the film together, those character moments which prevent it from bogging down in sports stats.
In the end, “Draft Day” is a tense drama that juggles several stories expertly. It’s somewhat bittersweet to watch now in the wake of massive NFL scandals, as well as seeing how the Cleveland Browns did in the Draft this year and how that is starting to play out in the full 2014 season. But ultimately, “Draft Day” is a fantasy football film that can be entertaining for fans and non-fans alike.
The Blu-ray comes with an audio commentary with writers Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman. There’s also an hour-long documentary called “On the Clock: The Making of Draft Day,” which takes the viewer through the development and pre-production all the way through the production. It’s nice to see a long-form behind-the-scenes features on a disc, which can be a lost art for standard releases.
Additional features are the ten-minute “Welcome to Primetime” look at the NFL draft itself and how it relates to the film. There’s also about nine minutes of deleted scenes as well as the theatrical trailer.