The 400-Word Review: Draft Day
By Sean Collier
April 14, 2014
The NFL, in its ever-expanding attempt to monopolize the eyeballs of fans year-round, has gradually made its annual spring draft more of a media event. Now held at Radio City Music Hall and broadcast on ESPN, the draft is part reality show, part awards show and ever-so-slightly sports; it is also a relentlessly scrutinized and prognosticated occasion for the sports media to speculate, analyze and hypothesize well into the morning.
For the past few years, the earliest (and most faux-drama-fueled) selections have been part of a primetime special; ESPN has flirted with top ratings for this hoopla, drawing sports fans away from the major networks — and thus making a boatload of money for both network and league.
But there could always be more people watching, couldn’t there? If you’re the NFL (or ESPN,) you’d like to attract casual sports viewers along with the diehards. Why shouldn’t people who haven’t watched a down of college football since they actually attended college tune in to learn the fates of players they’ve never heard of?
Enter Draft Day.
A 110-minute advertisement for the annual spectacular, Draft Day is inexcusably directed by Ivan Reitman from a script by playwright and sometimes TV scribe Rajiv Joseph and first-timer Scott Rothman. Kevin Costner stars as a fictitious Cleveland Browns GM; Jennifer Garner is his salary cap expert/ham-handed love interest; Frank Langella owns the team; Chadwick Boseman is the player that he wants to draft; no one is particularly interested.
We are led to believe that our GM’s job is on the line pending the outcome of the draft (which fans know is generally not the case and non-fans won’t care about). He impulsively makes a dramatic trade early in the day without consulting anyone (which fans know would never happen and non-fans won’t understand), and finds himself agonizing about the talents of the prospective number one pick (who fans know will have been exhaustively vetted by 10,000 insiders by this point and non-fans — again — won’t care about).
Some drama is wrung (painfully) out of the wet paper towel of a script by forcing the unsympathetic exec to make stupid decisions at key moments and not consult the proper people about them; there are attempts to add emotional weight, but they are as transparent as they are forgettable. It’s a slickly presented bit of crass commercial cross-branding, but not worth anyone’s time.
My Rating: 4/10
Aggregate Rating from CriticsChoice.com: 72/100
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark