The comparisons between this newly released ‘Draft Day’ film and the successful 1996 Tom Cruise football comedy-drama ‘Jerry Maguire’ is both compelling and natural. Both films take viewers behind-the-scenes to accurately portray life in the National Football League; ‘Jerry Maguire’ from the cold-hearted sports agent perspective and now ‘Draft Day,’ depicting NFL war rooms evaluating talent prior to selection time. In ‘Draft Day’, Kevin Costner plays Browns’ General Manager Sonny Weaver, who must make the most of his team’s draft selections to secure his job and attempt to bring NFL respectability back to Cleveland.
For ‘Draft Day’, the movie’s offense is centered very effectively on the personalities of the young athletes and the background into what makes each player’s stock either rise or plummet in the draft order--sometimes even within minutes. Costner adequately manages to bring authenticity to his GM Weaver’s gig, highlighted by his attempts to appease the football faithful in arguably the league’s most win-deprived location; the Cleveland owner (played brilliantly by Frank Langella), the hardcore Browns’ fan base, Weaver’s family, and even Costner’s girlfriend (portrayed by Jennifer Garner) all desperately crave a return to winning.
‘Draft Day’, like John Madden using his Telestrator on Sunday afternoons, successfully illustrates the challenges every NFL team must deal with on their most important non-game, day of the year. That was achieved with the massive support from the NFL and numerous cameo appearances by football insiders; both of which teamed up to bring authenticity and credibility to this story’s playbook.
The fumbles in ‘Draft Day’ include its penchant to bring romance into a full-fledged, dominating football story. ‘Jerry Maguire’ used the NFL only to provide downfield blocking for Tom Cruise’s sports agent, allowing him to tackle romance. However, Costner’s romance in ‘Draft Day’ doesn’t get past the line of scrimmage in importance, or need. In fact, Sonny Weaver’s fondness for Garner’s salary cap character, Ali, is a distraction throughout the film and completely unnecessary. Garner more than holds her own in the movie and within the confining office spaces of the Browns’ facility. Another miscue in this film is the poor casting of Denis Leary as the hapless Cleveland head coach. Leary is unconvincing and all his labored mannerisms skirt the sideline towards over-acting and ineptness.
Despite a few dropped passes, ‘Draft Day’ is a very watchable and entertaining sports movie. The extensive strides the film takes to gain NFL buy-in and support is superb and will please almost all diehard Sunday football fans. The NFL’s vast assistance combined with the numerous cameo appearances from football insiders brought believability to the movie, while at the same time, a feeling that you’re actually evaluating on-field talent. That look and feel of being inside an NFL team headquarters transforms this film into a potential late first-round pick. Unfortunately, a love story is forced upon viewers and into the ‘Draft Day’ coverage, causing a turnover just as the Cleveland Browns are attempting to score on future football plans. This ill-advised relationship between Costner and Garner drops this film into a mid-to-late second round selection at best. Although no ‘Jerry Maguire’, this movie does get into the end zone enough to keep viewers excited about the upcoming season.
‘Draft Day’ is Rated PG-13. Running time is 1 hour, 50 minutes