Movie Mind Says: Move to Top of Netflix Delivery List
If You Like This You Should Watch: Trouble with the Curve, Million Dollar Arm
Better Than: Moneyball
Worse Than: Chef
Starring: Kevin Costner, Denis Leary, Jennifer Garner
Seemingly unsatisfied with ruling the minds of all pigskin fans for 5 months out of every year, the warlords of the NFL have turned what used to be innocuous day of teams calling out the names of 20-year old kids and hanging them over millions of dollars, into a non-stop glorified Real Househusbands reality-TV frenzy that fans can’t get enough of. If you root for a crappy football team, you probably look forward to the NFL Draft more than the team’s actual season (at least until after Week 1 when expectations come back down to earth). In line with their plan to take over the world, the NFL decided the actual NFL Draft wasn’t good enough, so they had to make a (quasi) fictional feature film about it. The scariest part of this whole thing…I still had to watch it. And if you’re a football fan like me, you should too.
Step 1: Choose a moribund football franchise to feature in the film. Cleveland Browns, come on down! Step 2: Hire seemingly the only actor qualified to star in a sports film. Kevin Costner welcome back! [As an aside, I must admit that it makes me feel old now that Costner is too old to actually play the athlete in the sports movies, and is forced to play the gray-haired team executive instead. It sucks getting old.] Step 3: Ensure the NFL comes out of the move looking completely pristine and also manages to get a few not-so-subtle product placements for sponsors in there. Check and check after the obnoxious Papa John’s sighting in the movie. Seriously, does anyone actually eat that pizza? Step 4: Hollywood up the storyline with a love interest (how would we ever watch a film without that!), against-all-odds outcome, and depiction of bumbling team GM’s that most fans fear is too accurately portraying the suits in charge of their team. BAM…you’ve got Draft Day!
Costner’s role as the GM for the Browns who are portrayed as…well, the Browns, seems pretty spot on. One could assume that the reason the Browns have been so historically bad for so long is that they have a real GM running the team on a whim and by the seat of his pants and “hunches” just like Costner. It’s draft day, and after waking up at almost 8am, getting into the office around 10am, and speaking directly with several draft prospects personally, he seems primed to have the results of those discussions and his owner’s preferences (that part is likely accurate) steer his decisions. Understandably, those choices clash with new coach Penn (Denis Leary) when he is on an island as his GM unilaterally makes these calls. It’s a nice little story about personal conflict as he deals with the owner’s desire to make a “splash”, knowing what the new coach (who he clearly doesn’t believe in) wants, and what he actually feels is best to put his own stamp on the team.
I don’t know if it’s coincidence or the stars aligning for the film but there are some eerie real-world parallels to this year’s draft. You have the current QB who is the underdog, coming back from injury, after a successful shortened year (hello Brian Hoyer), and the pull of the lure of the high-profile playboy QB that has them salivating (Johnny Football anyone?). The film is wrought with cameos by the “real” draftniks like Kiper, Gruden, Berman, and the like. I don’t think they lend anything to the film and it wouldn’t have lost anything if they had fictional characters playing those roles. I actually think the intersection or real-world personalities and the fictional characters blurred the lines of what was real vs. what was made-up and took away a little from the film. Nonetheless, if you love the NFL and if you love the Draft just as much, you have to see the film. I’m not quite sure how it will translate over to non-football fans but Hollywood added enough frills to likely keep you interested as well.
Interesting Cameo Appearance: Not so sure they are interesting, but it’s a who’s who of ESPN / NFL Network talking heads playing themselves. My favorite non-football guy cameo here was actually the well-known TV character actor Chi McBride (Donny from Gone in 60 Seconds, Winston from one of my favorite short-lived TV series Human Target) as an assistant GM of sorts of the Seattle Seahawks who helps the actual GM pull off one of the worst trades in the history of fake or real NFL Drafts.
Ali: How is it that the ultimate prize in the most macho sport ever invented is a piece of jewelry?
Sonny Weaver Jr.: [arguing with Penn] There’s me doing my job, you doing yours. Your job is to coach the team I give you. They do it different in Dallas?Coach Penn: Yeah, they do. They win.
Sonny Weaver Jr.: [discussing a potential player] Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.
Coach Penn: I don’t need him to block, I need him to run! Which he does, like a bat out of hell. Which takes the pressure off of my offense. Okay? I got 52 Tarzans in that locker room; I could use a Jane!