American football fans are going to love Draft Day, there’s just no doubt about it. That says quite a lot about the film and its overall appeal, since the majority of Americans old enough to watch TV are fans to a greater or lesser degree, and many of them are what you could call rabid fans. The NFL is its own advertisement, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have Kevin Costner in the starring role of Sonny Weaver, general manager of the Cleveland Browns.
Draft Day is all about the pre-season NFL draft picks that take place in May, when team officials pick players who have just become eligible for the draft, and in the process try their damnedest to out-think and if possible undercut rival teams for the best potential players. There has been a lot of emphasis on the fact that the NFL endorses the film as a realistic depiction of what really goes on behind the scenes.
Costner as Sonny Weaver is perfectly suited to the role; some of his best work has been in sports films like Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, and the Oscar-winning actor, now 59, says he’s well aware that sports enthusiasts – and particularly those who’ve actually played the game – want to see the real thing, not a far-fetched drama made for TV.
All that being said, the film is about the human drama behind the hugely popular game and its players, managers, owners and manipulators of all stripes. Sonny Weaver has more drama in his life than just NFL draft picks. His team has had a 13-year losing streak and he really really needs to get that super-player, first pick in the draft, ahead of competing teams. However he also has to deal with matters in his personal, life including his father (Sonny Sr.), a former Browns coach and a legend in his time.
Basically, Sonny Jr. has to prove himself in the eyes of fans, his team and its owner (Frank Langella as Anthony Molina), who has little faith in his judgment, and incidentally his mother Barb (played by Ellen Burstyn). He also has to contend with the lawyer Ali, (Jennifer Garner) who’s in charge of keeping the salary caps in control. This one crucial day of the annual draft picks is packed with various dramas that deeply involve all those hopeful players waiting to see the shape of their future in football.
Perhaps the best thing about Draft Day is that even if you’re not a football fan it’s still engrossing and fun. That’s due in part to the emphasis on realism when it comes to how those whose lives are pretty much taken up by the game feel and react to the pressures of big-time sports. It’s certainly a better-than-average sports-related comedy and much better-than-average inside look at the real scene behind the scenes. Draft Day opens in U.S. theatres this weekend.