By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
Now that March Madness is over, that annual ritual in which everybody goes nuts about filling out a bracket with teams they don’t actually know very much about, we need another obsessive- compulsive sports-related activity to occupy our minds.
That’s where the NFL draft comes in. Who can resist guessing which players we don’t actually know very much about will go to which team? (I can’t. This stuff is high drama. And if the Seahawks don’t take an offensive lineman this year, they’re crazy—you can get a wide receiver in the second round.)
However, the NFL draft is a month away. In the meantime we have “Draft Day,” an entire film built around the wheeling and dealing of football’s big countdown.
The day dawns with Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner) being handed a stick of dynamite: The Seahawks want to trade him the No. 1 overall pick in exchange for a barrel of future picks. This would guarantee the Browns getting the Heisman-winning, can’t-miss quarterback that everybody else covets.
Sonny has about 12 hours to make this swap pay off — and listen to other teams that might want in. Then the live broadcast begins, and depending on how things fall he’ll either be a laughingstock or a golden boy.
Oh, and his father just died, his mother (Ellen Burstyn) wants to bury her husband’s ashes on the practice field, the coach (Denis Leary) is furious about not being consulted, and the Browns owner (Frank Langella) is ready to blow a fuse if Costner doesn’t take the quarterback.
There’s also Sonny’s co-worker (Jennifer Garner) who has another complication for him. Garner’s nice in a very standard role, but her career choices in recent years continue to be mystifying.
As for Costner, this part is undoubtedly intended to conjure up memories of “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams” and other sports-minded pictures. It’s a good part for him, although his laid-back approach could’ve used a few more moments of oomph.
“Draft Day” is directed by onetime “Ghostbusters” honcho Ivan Reitman. He keeps the humor to the fore, although he can’t make some of the plot twists seem credible.
Also, this movie has some of the most useless split-screen in memory. I guess this is done to make deal-making phone calls more exciting, although if you’ve set the table well enough you shouldn’t need split-screen to juice it up.
The easiest point of comparison, “Moneyball,” was leagues beyond this. And yet “Draft Day” is pretty easy to be around, all things considered, and it’ll have to serve until the real thing comes along.
“Draft Day” (two and a half stars)
Cleveland Browns general manager Kevin Costner is offered a trade for the #1 overall pick on NFL draft day; should he bet the farm on supposed sure thing? Nothing too great here but the built-in suspense is easy to take, and it’s a decent role for Costner. With Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary.
Rating: PG-13, for language
Opening: Friday at Alderwood, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.