There are few things that I care about less than sports. However, one of those things is the politics that go into building a sports team. I know a lot of people get really hyped about seeing their favorite NCAA players make it into the pro teams, but to me, that’s even more boring than the game itself. So what’s the big home video release this week? Draft Day, the story of a general manager struggling with decisions over who to draft for the Cleveland Browns. My enthusiasm was through the roof.
But you know what? On a technical level, the movie isn’t half bad. Not only does it do a decent job of conveying the gravity of the choices inherent in the final hours leading up to the all-important first round of draft picks, but it also portrays a cast of characters that are worth giving a damn about. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that any of these characters are deep. The main character is Sonny Weaver Jr., played by Kevin Costner, and his story arc is the standard spiel about proving himself as a good manager, even when his choices seem questionable even to himself. Jennifer Garner plays a love interest to the best of her limited ability. Dennis Leary plays the Browns’ coach who argues with every decision Weaver makes. Throw in a few to-be-drafted players to make us care about who makes the final cut, and we have a working, if fairly standard, coming-of-age sports drama.
Now, one would think that the negotiations between managers would be a dull affair, but the film constantly lets you know that the clock is ticking. At the start of almost every scene transition, there’s a countdown to signify when the draft is going to begin, and as the number gets lower, the tension gets higher. Stylized split-screen edits were a smart move that make telephone negotiations into visual collages, with characters walking into each other’s frames and back into their own reality without the slightest hiccup to reduce the tension. It was a much appreciated touch for what could have been some truly bland visual storytelling.
Praise aside, though, the film does suffer from being a bit too much of a victim of genre conventions. We all know that Weaver is going to make the right calls in the end because the right calls are telegraphed to us from a mile away. The coach is going to be humbled by Weaver’s climactic genius, just as we’ve seen a million naysayers in a million movies before be proven wrong. And of course Garner’s character is going to end up with Weaver, because her character literally serves no other purpose within the narrative. It’s the classic cowboy transposed into a sports picture, saving the day from the evil Seahawks general manager and riding off into the sunset with his girl by his side.
So is Draft Day a good movie? Eh, I’d say good enough. It’s nothing spectacular, and it probably doesn’t help that personally I find the subject matter a bit on the dull side. If you have any interest in football, I’d say there are worse ways to spend an afternoon. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be interested enough to want to watch it in the first place.
Have a favorite sports flick? Let me know in the comments below.