Draft Day holds on too tight to its playbook as it dully, and predictably, slogs towards an entertaining finale.
Draft day is a big, fucking deal to countless NFL fans around the country and I couldn’t help but feel that this film avoids everything that could be interesting about this subject and instead is a candy coated commercial for how “amazing” the NFL is. I understand that a film can have its own prerogative in what it wants to be, and doesn’t have to address every reality around its subject, but Draft Day does a pretty terrible job at giving us a reason to be interested in things it wants us to invest in.
The romantic subplot is underdeveloped, forced and always feels professional. The dorky intern wouldn’t exist in this world. Kevin Costner’s character is a terrible GM (He doesn’t know the star quarterback he thinks is the future of his team is in the best shape of his life? That is literally his job to know that.) and most every positive development in the film is from dumb luck, completely contrived or the result of the rampant levels of incompetence on display in every front office they show.
The script thinks it is so clever, but is so bland and predictable I knew where things were going as soon as all three of the prospects were introduced. Why not throw in a few more variables? Make it a killer draft class where there is a bunch of legitimate candidates to go number one and make the drama about that? Any sense of real drama would have been appreciated, and there were zero stakes in the film beyond the amount of money the pseudo-villain was going to make in the draft. Everything is wrapped up with a nice little bow, and again, that’s fine, but you have to make it interesting somehow. How many times did we have to go into a closet to have the same non-conversation about the lead’s pregnancy “issue”?
I never felt any drama or intensity around those Cleveland offices on a day that should be full of it and Ivan Reitman misses the difference between cool & calm vs. coming off as lackadaisical. Everything is moving in slow motion till that admittedly fun final scene, but it was too little too late to save the movie.
There are a number of relevant topics that could have made this film more interesting. Overly obsessive fans could have been criticized, a prospect with a series of concussions would have been an important topic to discuss, the subject of racism is glossed over like it doesn’t exist in the world of football, just as long as he runs a 4 flat 40. You could even argue that the film reinforces the, sadly true, reality that these superstar athletes are above the law. Why can’t we see Costner admit that he doesn’t care about a kid’s past as long as he plays well on the field? The film seems so detached from the reality of the league, but the film can’t be critical because it’s a glorified, championing, NFL commercial.
I can think of a lot of reasons to take marks off Draft Day, and just as many reasons that could have made it better. I hate to criticize what a movie could be, but I don’t think the film succeeds very well with what it is trying to be either. There isn’t enough going on to hold your interest, all the drama is undercooked and the more you know about the NFL the less believable all of these contrived wheeling and dealings will be. At least it gave us “pancake eating motherfucker.”
Draft Day is a C-