Critics are mixed on the NFL drama starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary and Chadwick Boseman
Director Ivan Reitman's NFL-approved football drama “Draft Day” should appeal to fans who regularly congregate around televisions and stadiums to watch America's most popular sport.
But according to a lot of critics, other viewers may leave theaters wishing they had thrown their money at something else, instead.
The Lionsgate release stars Kevin Costner as the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, who has just a few hours to decide whether the underdog team should take a star quarterback that the Seattle Seahawks offered up — or several other promising prospects. Costner struggles with this while digesting unexpected news that he has knocked up a co-worker he's having a secret office romance with.
Despite a strong cast consisting of co-stars Frank Langella, Chadwick Boseman, Denis Leary and Jennifer Garner, ”Draft Day” has critics split. Rotten Tomatoes has declared it 56 percent “rotten,” with only a slight majority (45 out of 79) lending favorable reviews.
TheWrap‘s Inkoo Kang was not one of them, however, as she found the picture “about as daring as a pair of dad jeans – and just as ugly.” Luckily, the fine actors on screen managed to somewhat save the day for her eyes.
“Though it features postcard-ready vistas of several cities and their football stadiums (whose architectural virtues are readily visible when emptied of people and garbage), Reitman's film is about as ugly as a slick studio picture can be, thanks to a split-screen trick has characters bleeding over into each others’ frames,” Kang wrote.
“[Costner] shoulders his way into others’ scenes, and the clash in scale, lighting, and palette make for a cut-and-paste collage effect that's distractingly hideous. It's not just a failed experiment — it very nearly reduces ‘Draft Day’ into amateur hour. Fortunately, the pros on screen manage to turn that visual fiasco into a mere fumble.”
A number of other critics were distinctly turned off by the NFL's domination of the project, written by Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman, who landed the script on the industry's 2012 Black List — a ranking of the “best” unproduced screenplays floating around town.
Detroit News critic Tom Long gave it a “C” grade for being “predictable,” as well as “a near two-hour commercial for the National Football League.”
“It contains no mention of lifelong injuries, suicide rates, the ugly effects of concussions, job instability or any of the NFL's downsides. It's your basic cheerleading exercise. Audience members shell out $10 to be reminded that they love professional football,” Long wrote in his review. “The movie may indeed be rich and rewarding for those avid fans who follow professional football as if it's a religious experience. But others may shiver at the precedent this sets.”
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New York Daily News critic Elizabeth Weitzman simply didn't think it was good, and likened it to a poor man's imitation of “Moneyball.”
“Haven't Cleveland fans suffered enough? Not only have they never won a Super Bowl, but now the Browns serve as the center of Ivan Reitman's painfully-creaky sports drama,” Weitzman wrote. “Reitman probably saw Brad Pitt in ‘Moneyball’ and figured one could build a similar success by drawing on the obsessive minutiae of the NFL draft. But ‘Moneyball’ had a sharp script and a magnetic star ready to sell the idea of geeked-out details transforming a macho sport. ‘Draft Day’ boasts neither of those assets.”
Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan had similar observations about the new release's inferiority to the Aaron Sorkin-written “Moneyball.” But Turan managed to find it enjoyable and suspected others would, too, regardless of their interest in the sport.
“Though ‘Draft Day’ feels far less authentic than the baseball-themed ‘Moneyball,' it can be amusing to watch all this inside football stuff if you are an NFL fan,” Turan wrote. “The dialogue may be of the ‘How's my favorite strength coach?’ variety, but no league was harmed during the making of this film, and audiences will likely survive it as well.”
Village Voice critic Stephanie Zacharek took her praise one step further, and even referred to Reitman — the director of comedy classics “Ghostbusters,” “Stripes” and “Kindergarten Cop” (yeah, I said it) — as “a master.”
“You may think you're not interested in a sturdy little dramatic comedy about the intricacies of the NFL draft process. But with ‘Draft Day,’ you're in the hands of a master,” Zacharek wrote. “This isn't so much a movie about sports as it is a riff on politics in the broad sense of the word, and the ways in which smart, insightful people play along to get along — and then change the game for the better by following their gut.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune critic Colin Covert also took notice of aspects of the film that can appeal to those who don't regularly tune in to ESPN, and gave Hollywood sports movie staple Costner some props, as well, for a role that required him to step off the field and keep a level head while deciding what players will step foot on it next.
“Kevin Costner + sports movie = How can you go wrong?” Covert wrote. “Don't worry if you're not a hard-core gridiron fan — Costner's cool charisma and the universal nature of office politics make this accessible anyway.”