At the NFL Draft, general manager Sonny Weaver has the opportunity to rebuild his team when he trades for the number one pick. He must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with NFL dreams.
Year 2, Film #71
THE REVIEW: I wouldn’t say I was excited going into this film but I must say that I thought it would be much better than how it turned out. For a Kevin Costner sports film that details the twelve hours before the NFL draft starts there’s a lot of potential. Even coming from someone who only watches the Superbowl every year (and no other football games), I was hooked by this premise. But Ivan Reitman, who directed such wonderful classics as Meatballs, Stripes, and Ghostbusters, decided to go the route of his last film and make a generally unfunny, uninteresting, and all-around poorly made film.
My biggest complaint, by far, has got to be with the visual style of the film. There are just some many ideas that I do not understand why they were made. Let’s start off with the split-screens. Generally, split-screens are used when there’s a phone call or equivalent situation where two characters, in two different locations, are interacting with each other and you want to show both at the same time. One character will take one half of the screen and the other will occupy the other half. It’s also not used that often; instead the editor will just cut back and forth between full shots of each character and you still get the same picture. Draft Day doesn’t just decide to test the waters here. No, it jumps into the deep end and then realizes it doesn’t know how to swim and has no life jacket. My best guess is that 50% of this film takes place in split-screens, and I’d consider that a very conservative estimate. Now, most of these split-screens are used for phone calls (which as you can imagine, there are a lot of on the NFL draft day) but the reason Draft Day is flailing in the deep end with no help in sight is because of two more things: wipes and unnecessary visual effects.
Having split-screens is one thing, but to have them be dynamic with characters crossing over the borders, entire sections wiping over each other to “hide” a cut, or worst of all when the characters swapped sides. It was disorienting, confusing, and downright silly. The only possible reason I can come up with for why the filmmakers would do this is because it gives the illusion of the two sides, separated by hundreds of miles, being connected as if everyone was in the same place. But it doesn’t. It creates more problems than it solves and it doesn’t solve any. By the end of the film I was shaking my head at how annoying this trick, effect — whatever you want to call it — actually is. All it is, is a good reminder for why certain filmmaking conventions exist and why they’re not broken too often. I applaud and welcome out-of-the-box thinking and trying to do something new by breaking conventions, but this is something the filmmakers should have known would fail after the first scene.
Story-wise, Draft Day doesn’t fare much better. The main premise is indeed handled quite well. A lot of tension and conflict is built up around Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner) and all the trades he makes to get the number one draft pick. Whenever there’s a time limit involved, suspense usually follows and in Draft Day, despite being upset by a lot of other elements, when it got down to the final seconds before the Cleveland Brown’s pick, I held my breath waiting to see what would happen. This doesn’t explain the countless extraneous plot-lines that were just thrown into the story however: Sonny’s relationship with co-worker Ali (Jennifer Garner) and their expected baby, Sonny’s relationship with his now deceased father, Sonny’s mother (Ellen Burstyn), and the new intern Rick (Griffin Newman) who’s flustered with everything going on. At least the intern subplot was a bit amusing, the others just seemed forced in because there needs to be a love interest and there needs to be some internal conflict with Sonny.
Draft Day delivered a meager amount of excitement at the end when everyone is rushing around the room trying to figure out who their next pick is. Besides those few minutes though, the film was a big disappointment. The unusual visual style completely failed and made the movie annoying to watch and the non-draft parts of the story felt forced and poorly integrated. Just to let you know, from the reactions I was hearing as other people were filing out of the theater, the film may be more enjoyable than I’ve made it out to be. All I can say is that I’m not upset that I saw it, but I definitely would not go voluntarily watch Draft Day. The redeeming qualities it does have are easily overshadowed by everything else this film has to offer.
Draft Day opens in theaters this Friday, April 11, 2014.
THE RATING: 2 out of 5