Draft Day (Summit Entertainment, PG-13)

draftday 75_copyIs it good? No. Is it bad? Not really. It’s just okay, and that’s okay.

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After leaving the screening of Draft Day and trying to formulate how I would describe the movie to my friends, only one word came to mind: harmless. The movie is genuinely entertaining and will be great to re-watch on cable, but the script is riddled with false logic and director Ivan Reitman nearly drives the audience mad with his directorial choices. Is it good? No. Is it bad? Not really. It’s just okay, and that’s okay.

The NFL Draft is the day college athletes are invited to join the ranks of professional football players. The event is stressful not just for the athletes (and their agents), but also the teams who are putting a lot of faith and money into these players. Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner) is the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a team which is badly in need of a strong draft pick. The Browns are slotted to draft in the number seven spot, so they’ll get a good but not great draft pick. Sonny needs to make the right choice, but his decision becomes a lot harder when the manager of the Seattle Seahawks, Tom Michaels (Patrick St. Esprit), offers Sonny the number one draft spot.

The seemingly obvious number one draft pick is Heisman trophy-winning QB Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), but something doesn’t sit right with Sonny. For him, Bo is too good to be true and he doesn’t want to risk Bo collapsing under the pressure of being a professional player. Sonny is being urged from every angle to select Bo, including the team’s owner, Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), and Coach Penn (Denis Leary). As the clock ticks away, Sonny has to make a gut decision that will either make him a hero or get him fired.

To its credit, the movie is never boring. Screenwriters Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph have a gift for dialogue and the entire cast nails the rat-a-tat delivery the words require. Sadly, most characters sound and speak the same, tarnishing the script’s sparkling wit by the end. The biggest problem is the movie is based on a story without conflict. Ostensibly, Sonny is spending the day worrying and stressing, but we discover that he made up his mind long ago. All the other complications that come into play are just arbitrary scriptwriting mechanics. This is an enormous oversight on the part of Rothman and Joseph, one that apparently slipped past Reitman and the studio.

Reitman has made some classic comedies (Stripes, Ghostbusters), but an artist he is not. In Draft Day, nearly every scene uses split screens to capture the dialogue that happens over the phone. Instead of just cutting between the scenes, Reitman wastefully splices them together. This adds nothing to this story. His perpetual use of split screen rivals only Ang Lee’s Hulk in its level of annoyingness.

Costner is still a terrific leading man, so despite the story’s flaws and Reitman’s bizarre directing, Draft Day is still fun to watch. Costner plays Sonny with seriousness, but never forgets that he is in a comedy. That’s a balance not easy to accomplish. Stealing the show from everyone is Chadwick Boseman, who plays hothead draft pick Vontae Mack. Boseman’s performance is flawless. Mack is his own hype man and agent, but he is also honest and humble. Boseman makes Mack not just a stereotypical college athlete, but a young man who is struggling with real life issues far more crushing than a 22-year old should encounter.

Despite its flaws, Draft Day is trying its hardest to entertain its audience. Overall, the movie succeeds in this regard thanks mostly to a strong cast and solid comedic elements. | Matthew Newlin

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