By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Leading man Kevin Costner’s track record with sports movies is mostly admirable.
Two of his baseball flicks are classics: Field of Dreams and Bull Durham. And his golf film, Tin Cup, is also terrific.
But his third baseball outing, For Love of the Game, couldn’t find the plate and sputtered a bit, making his record 3-1.
Costner’s latest foray into the sporting realm is Draft Day, a drama about the National Football League. Which, unfortunately, brings Costner’s record to 3-2.
Draft Day is a look at the NFL Draft. What used to be a behind-the-scenes phenomenon in the business of professional football is now a high-profile public spectacle and spectator sport that is covered by broadcasters and journalists as if it were an important sporting event itself.
Well, maybe it is.
Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the embattled general manager of the National Football League’s downtrodden Cleveland Browns.
His father, who just passed away, was the team’s beloved coach until Sonny fired him. You read that right.
In the upcoming 2014 draft, wheeler-and-dealer Sonny wants to acquire the number-one pick for his struggling team, hoping he will be able to turn the failing franchise around.
And while he’s consumed with pulling off a combination of trades and negotiations that advance his team, his nervous owner (Frank Langella) and angry coach (Dennis Leary) look on and either applaud or deride every move.
Also disapproving is his still-grieving mother, played by Ellen Burstyn.
Jennifer Garner plays Ali, the team’s “salary capologist,” who, it just so happens, is secretly (well, not so secretly, given that everybody seems to know about it) romantically involved with Sonny.
Of course, Draft Day differs from Costner’s other sports flicks in that it’s not set on the playing field or the locker room but in cubicles and offices and boardrooms.
Veteran comedy director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Stripes, Dave, Junior, Kindergarten Cop), who also served as a producer, tries to add some visual energy to what for long stretches amounts to just a series of telephone calls by fooling around with snazzy split-screen techniques. But they’re as much of a distraction as they are an enhancement.
And the ticking-clock suspense built into the premise doesn’t end up amounting to much.
The script, by Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman, is, among other things, promotional infotainment about the NFL. Given the league’s obvious cooperation, you would think that Draft Day, regardless of any dramatic limitations, would at least feel authentic.
And yet it doesn’t. The narrative is carefully structured to include an appropriate payoff in which the gears mesh, but along the way is feels strangely and surprisingly farfetched.
The more you know about pro football, the more interested you will be in the specifics and details. But by the same token, the more familiar you are with actual draft days, the more critical you’ll probably be about what fictionally transpires.
Some will describe Draft Day as football’s version of Moneyball. And while there are surface parallels and resemblances, and each is about the business of the sport, the football-themed drama lacks the baseball-themed drama’s fascination with details and logic.
And in the Obnoxious Product Placement Sweepstakes, Draft Day wins in a cakewalk.
So we’ll trade up to 2 stars out of 4 for Draft Day.
Capsule review: NFL = Not Freakin’ Likely.