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DRAFT DAY (review)

draft_dayDRAFT DAY
Written by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Chadwick Boseman
 

Sonny Weaver Jr.: You only get drafted once.

There used to be a time when the name Ivan Reitman was synonymous with treasured film comedies. He is a comedic legend responsible for helming beloved classics like GHOSTBUSTERS and DAVE, and producing gems such as ANIMAL HOUSE, OLD SCHOOL, and I LOVE YOU, MAN. Recently though, if we were to ask the average moviegoer who Ivan Reitman is, the most common response would be, “Do you mean Jason Reitman?”. It feels like not that long ago when Jason Reitman, Ivan’s director son, was heavily accused of riding his father’s coattails to establish his own success in the film industry. Now it appears that the men, in a cruel twist of fate, have switched places in the cultural zeitgeist, with Jason (somewhat) riding high and Ivan languishing in his son’s cinematic shadow. Therefore, it seems only natural for Ivan to direct and produce a film about a man struggling to walk a day in his (recently deceased) father’s legendary footsteps. Unfortunately, much like his most recent directorial effort, NO STRINGS ATTACHED, DRAFT DAY is a saccharine and ersatz-feeling film that immediately fumbles and never quite recovers.

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The film takes place in the twenty-four hour period of the NFL’s draft day, wherein the thirty-two teams, during a seven round cycle, must “draft” highly ranked university football players who will hopefully be a part of their roster in the upcoming season. On the morning of the draft, as he sips his piping hot cup of coffee, Cleveland Browns General Manager, Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) wearily scribbles down an unseen (to the audience) message on a fluorescent green Post-It (the MacGuffin of the film). The content of said message remains shrouded until the film’s closing moments. The weight that Weaver feels from being far too long in his illustrious father’s shadow also hangs heavily over him until this time. The former coach in the Browns organization, his father, passes away just a week prior to the titular Draft Day, forcing Weaver to establish both his and the team’s own unique identity in the course of this day. Matters are further complicated with the announcement of his colleague and girlfriend, Ali (Jennifer Garner)’s pregnancy and a seemingly desperate trade with the General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks for the number one draft slot.

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Similar to Reitman’s NO STRINGS ATTACHED, DRAFT DAY feels like a film written by screenwriters who know little of realistic, three-dimensional people, real workplaces, or real-life scenarios, (let alone anything about football franchises). The following are just a smattering of the featherbrained script’s abundant faults: Firstly, the audience is led to believe that well regarded football players have nothing better to do on draft day than casually call the General Manager of an abysmal team and eloquently plead to be chosen to play for said team. Secondly, the head office and locker room of a national football franchise is immaculately clean and hushed on the most decisive and monumental day of the year. Granted, this is during the off-season, but anyone who has ever watched real-life footage from the event or even five minutes of any other football film would be conscious of this absurdity. Thirdly, the portrayal of women in the film is insulting, (which will be detrimental to its success considering the film will desperately need women in its audience once the males become keenly aware that the film is not about sports at all). As Weaver’s mother Barb, acclaimed actress, Ellen Burstyn, flip-flops between being a shrew and the supportive mother that he so desperately needs. Rosanna Arquette appears briefly as his ex-wife, but winds up looking lost in her limited screen time, as the script doesn’t provide much for her to do. Most disparaging, however, is the characterization of Jennifer Garner’s Ali – a modern day, poor man’s Joan Holloway (of Mad Men fame). Her primary purposes are either to be a tired tomboy-like cheerleader for Weaver, or to spout seemingly endless lines of exposition. Editors Dana Glauberman and Sheldon Kahn, assumedly aware of said facts, choose to frame the majority of the film in PILLOW TALK-like split screens, conceivably hoping that picture-in-picture watching sports fans will at least be temporarily engrossed.

DRAFT DAY

By the time the film offers up a Hail Mary (involving a number of proud father-son moments), it is unclear for whom exactly the audience is supposed to be cheering. Even with the frames moving almost every two minutes, it is easy to notice the long pauses with which the performances are littered, and the lack of focus in the direction and screenwriting. Lead actors, Costner, Denis Leary, and Chadwick Boseman have coincidentally all been in far superior baseball films (FIELD OF DREAMS / BULL DURHAM, THE SANDLOT, and 42, respectively), and should have resolutely stuck to films about that particular sport. Sadly, for Ivan Reitman, DRAFT DAY feels like a first draft, and is many yards away from the touchdown he needed to elevate his career back to its former glory.

2 sheep

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