Richard Roeper Blog

‘Draft Day’: A cast of pros executing great plays

Sometimes my Pop Culture Radar doesn’t work for spit.

When I first heard about a TV show in which secondary celebrities would team up with professional instructors for a dancing competition, I thought that show would last about as long as “Cop Rock.” And when I learned Hollywood was going to turn the old “Transformers” cartoon/toy franchise into a movie, well, that seemed like a recipe for disaster.

Same thing with the NFL draft. I never understood the mentality of superfans who would don jerseys and face paint and spend hours in a cavernous arena, cheering or booing when the NFL commissioner announced who their favorite team was taking in the seventh round. Have an off-season, people. And I certainly never thought the NFL draft would provide material for a highly rated extravaganza on TV.

Now draft day is the basis for a feature film — a sentimental, predictable, sometimes implausible but thoroughly entertaining, old-fashioned piece.

Directed by the sure-handed Ivan Reitman and bolstered by breezy performances from Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, “Draft Day” is a cornball “Moneyball,” one of those “all in one day” movies in which game- and life-changing decisions are made and fates are decided over a period of about 12 hours. (I always wonder what the characters do after one of these “all in one day” movies. Stay in bed, exhausted?)

Kevin Costner has a thing for Americana sports films, from “Bull Durham” to “Field of Dreams” to “For Love of the Game” (all baseball) to “Tin Cup” (golf). Now he moves from the playing field to the executive suite, playing Sonny Weaver, the beleaguered general manager of the hapless Cleveland Browns, who are coming off another losing season and in desperate need of some star power to energize the loyal, long-suffering fan base.

One of the things I like about this movie is it’s set in the real NFL (which means, of course, it’s going to be largely complimentary to the NFL way of life). This is not one of those football movies where teams have names like the Chicago Stallions and the Los Angeles Warriors, and they’re all playing in the “North American Football League.” Sonny wheels and deals with the Seahawks and the Broncos in a parallel NFL universe. (Seattle’s fans are restless and the coach is under siege. Obviously “Draft Day” was filmed before the most recent Super Bowl.)

Costner looks, sounds and talks like a general manager as he deals with the most crowded agenda any GM has ever faced on Draft Day. Ready?

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