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REVIEW: ‘Draft Day’ struggles to find balance

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Draft Day may not exactly be the film people are expecting. Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns who is faced with both personal and professional complications. His father recently passed away, he’s got some lady trouble with Ali (Jennifer Garner) and he’s navigating the surprisingly tangled process of the NFL Draft. In addition to his own personal goals, Sonny is trying to satisfy Brown’s owner Harvey Molina (Frank Langella) as well as Brown’s outspoken coach Vince Penn (Denis Leary).Photo:teaser-trailer.com

 

Directed by Ivan Reitman, it’s not quite laugh out loud funny as some of his earlier classics such as Stripes and Ghostbusters, but Reitman is focused on a gentler story and assembled a fantastic team of seasoned veterans to do so. Costner plays Sonny as a man struggling to manage the emotional turmoil in his life – and its believable that a fifty-something guy in the sports industry either suppressed or compartmentalized a lot emotionally. He’s left bumbling through some important conversations. Costner’s low-key performance highlights the conversations between him and his co-stars.

 

The supporting cast seems huge – there are a handful of football colleagues helping analyze the draft data and support the various team offices, including familiar favorites from the small screen Wallace Langham (CSI), David Ramsay (Arrow), and Timothy Simmons (from the HBO comedy Veep). Then there are the half dozen football players whose careers rest on Sonny’s decisions. Former Smallville actor Tom Welling plays the Brown’s current quarterback fighting for a second chance. Welling, who took a break from acting while venturing into producing, offers another strong supporting performance that will hopefully lead to more movie roles. Chadwick Boseman (42) is Vontae Mack, who is looking to support his nephews by securing a solid draft place. Texans running back Arian Foster plays the son who hopes to play for the same team his father (played by Terry Crews) once did.


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The biggest challenge of Draft Day is the film’s uneven tone. There’s not enough time to flesh out all the characters with the movie’s ensemble cast- with the exception of Garner’s Ali, who comes across warm, competent, and secure in her role as the sole woman at the executive level, and Ellen Burstyn, who communicates the warmth and frustration of family as Sonny’s grieving mother. There is a bit too much telling, when it could have showed the characters doing something besides talking. The visuals are slick and packaged (mimicking NFL pre game shows), but while the various football cities – Buffalo, Kansas City, Seattle, (alas, no Philadelphia) look beautiful, the filmmakers use a split screen that might be a hit with the millennial attention span, but can be a bit distracting. The movie tries to tell an intimate, personal story, but it nearly gets lost among the frantic activities within the 24-hour period.

 

This family friendly movie is rated PG-13.



 

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com

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Photo:teaser-trailer.com